Israeli helicopters bombard Bethlehem

Israeli helicopter gunships launched a rocket attack overnight on a Palestinian refugee camp near the West Bank town of Bethlehem amid faltering efforts to restore calm to the region. Three Palestinians were injured as the helicopters destroyed two houses from where military sources said Palestinians had opened fire on soldiers guarding Rachel's Tomb, a strongly fortified Jewish shrine on the northern edge of the West Bank city. The bombardment followed what the Israeli army described as an attempt by armed Palestinians to storm the tomb, revered by Jews as the resting place of the biblical matriarch Rachel. A gunbattle raged in the area between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians for some three hours, military sources said. The site in Bethlehem and villages surrounding the town have often been the scene of violent confrontations since the eruption of the deadly tide of Israeli-Palestinian unrest that has claimed the lives of some 300 people in over nine weeks, AFP reports.

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