INTERNATIONAL

Militant factions vow to fight back

Angry Palestinians chant anti-Israeli slogans and wave flags during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, in the Palestinian self-ruled area of the Gaza Strip on Friday. — Reuters

Angry Palestinians chant anti-Israeli slogans and wave flags during a demonstration in support of the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, in the Palestinian self-ruled area of the Gaza Strip on Friday. — Reuters  

Gaza City March 29. All the various Islamic and nationalist Palestinian factions today decided to "unite to defend the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," an official of the radical Islamic group Hamas told AFP after a meeting.

"The National and Islamic forces met today in Gaza City and called for all the military groups to unite against the (Israeli) aggression and defend the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," the official said. The National and Islamic forces are an umbrella group of 13 Palestinian factions which include the Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It also includes the three main political components of the Palestine Liberation Organisation: the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Hamas also warned Israel it would pay dear for its occupation of Ramallah, where the Israeli army had surrounded and entered Mr. Arafat's compound. "The Israelis will pay a high price for its aggression in Ramallah," said Abdelaziz al-Rantissi.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, declared Mr. Arafat an "enemy" and ordered his troops into Ramallah in the wake of a devastating suicide bombing in an Israeli hotel and the killing of four settlers in the West Bank. Both attacks were claimed by Hamas, whose armed branch the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades promised a "wave" of attacks against Israel.

Meanwhile, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) today threatened to hit "every Israeli" the world over, following Israel's reoccupation of the West Bank town of Ramallah, a spokesman said.

In another deadly attack, a female suicide bomber today detonated her explosives at the entrance to a Jerusalem supermarket killing herself and injuring about 20, police and rescue workers said.

There were unconfirmed reports that a security guard was also killed, but authorities could only confirm the death of the bomber.

The blast occurred at a strip mall in Kiryat Yovel, a working class Jewish neighbourhood in southeastern part of the city. "I got there two minutes afterwards. It was a horrible scene," said Moshe, a witnesses who spoke to Israel Radio. He said two dead bodies were at the entrance, apparently those of the bomber and a guard who tried to stop her. . — AFP, AP

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