Image: Aftermath of gun battle
Hatem Moussa  /  AP
A Palestinian militant lies dead next to a homemade rocket prepared to be fired into Israel after he was killed by Israeli army gunfire in the town of Beit Lahiya in the nothern Gaza Strip early Tuesday. An Israel helicopter fired also a missile after the gunfight.
updated 5/29/2006 10:43:09 PM ET 2006-05-30T02:43:09

An Israeli helicopter fired a missile at Palestinian militants during a cross-border clash in northern Gaza early Tuesday, killing three and wounding four, Palestinian officials said.

The incident started with a gun battle across the border, and the helicopter responded by firing a missile, the officials said. Islamic Jihad said the militants involved were its members.

The Israeli military said soldiers spotted Palestinian militants about to launch rockets at Israel, so they opened fire and called in aircraft, sparking an hourlong battle.

The area where the clash occurred is a frequent flashpoint because of infiltrations by Palestinian militants trying to carry out attacks and unarmed Palestinians seeking work in Israel.

In the West Bank early Tuesday, Palestinian security officials said two additional militants were killed in separate Israeli raids. An Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades militant was killed in the Balata refugee camp next to Nablus, and an Islamic Jihad gunman died in a clash in the village of Qabatiyeh.

Tensions high
Tensions have been running high since Friday, when an Islamic Jihad commander was killed in an explosion in south Lebanon. The militant group blamed Israel and threatened revenge, though Israel denied involvement.

On Monday, Israel’s confrontation with Palestinian militants took a different turn. Israel’s interior minister informed four leading Hamas legislators from east Jerusalem that they must quit the Palestinian parliament if they want to continue living in the Israel-controlled city.

Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On issued the ultimatum to Khaled Abu Arafa, the minister of Jerusalem affairs, and to Hamas lawmakers Mohammed Abu Teir, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Mahmoud Totach.

“You will either resign or you won’t be with us,” Bar-On said in a Channel 2 TV interview. “The letters were delivered to them today, and they have 30 days to decide.”

The four officials were summoned to accept the ultimatum notices at a Jerusalem police station. All refused to sign the letters and were released, police said.

Expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem for political reasons is unprecedented. It reflects the situation caused by the Hamas victory in January parliamentary elections and its formation of a government in March.

‘Hostile entity’
Israel has declared the Hamas regime a “hostile entity” and is leading a drive to cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority, creating widespread hardships. The expulsion orders follow from that.

Bar-On said the four would have to choose between living in Jerusalem and belonging to an enemy parliament.

Israel says that according to interim peace accords, the Palestinians are not allowed to conduct political activity in Jerusalem. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Residents of east Jerusalem enjoy a wide range of social benefits, including pension and health care. Israeli-issued identity cards grant them permanent residency in Jerusalem and freedom of movement in Israel.

The special arrangement is part of the conflict over Jerusalem. Israel captured the traditionally Arab sector in the 1967 war and annexed it a few weeks later.

Israel offered citizenship to the Palestinians there, but few accepted. However, Israel gave them ID cards that are almost identical to the ones Israeli citizens carry.

Palestinians claim the Arab sector of the city as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Abu Teir has been detained repeatedly by Jerusalem police for political activity in the city.

Israel originally threatened to strip the Hamas legislators of their identity cards in April after the Palestinians’ Hamas-led government refused to denounce a suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv fast food restaurant that killed 11 civilians, including an American teenager, and wounded dozens.

Israeli forces said Monday they foiled another suicide bombing, capturing two Palestinians carrying a bag with a bomb.

Also, Palestinians said a Hamas member of parliament, Mohammed Abu Khreishe, was released from an Israeli prison after serving a year. Abu Khreishe, from the Hebron area, was elected to parliament while in prison.

The Israeli military had no comment.

Palestinian factions held a second day of talks on a proposal that implicitly recognizes Israel’s right to exist and could relieve crippling economic sanctions imposed by the West and Israel after Hamas won Jan. 25 parliamentary elections.

In another development Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s 17-year-old daughter, Haola, was detained by Israeli police after using a relative’s ID to visit her fiance in an Israeli prison, officials said. They said the girl did not have a permit to enter Israel.

She was sent back to Gaza after questionin

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