Two Palestinians killed in fighting with Israeli troops

Israeli troops killed two militants from the Islamic Jihad group in a gun battle early Wednesday, after surrounding their hideout and destroying parts of it with a bulldozer. Palestinian medics who entered the building after the firefight found the bodies of two men and said a third was seriously wounded. Israeli soldiers then ordered the medics to remove the corpses and the injured man from the house, and a jeep took them away after some time, said a Palestinian doctor on the site, Ghassan Hamdan.

The Israeli army said the injured man was taken to an Israeli hospital. The arrest raid began before dawn and lasted for several hours. During the standoff, an army bulldozer destroyed part of the one-story house, witnesses said. Later, soldiers discovered 23 kilograms (51 pounds) of explosives in the house, the army said. Witnesses said they heard a large explosion, apparently from the army's controlled detonation of the explosives in the house.

The house was severely damaged, witnesses said. The bulldozer damaged two cars parked on the street, broke through a garden wall and cut a path through the yard to the house.

A spokesman for Islamic Jihad who gave his name only as Abul Abed said the group would continue attacks against Israel . "This gives us more courage to fight them," he said, after viewing the two bodies at the morgue. "We are fighting with Israel for billions of Muslims in the world. This is our way."

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad is the only one of the armed Palestinian groups to continue carrying out suicide bombings in Israel . It has carried out six such attacks in the past year, while the larger Hamas group has observed an informal truce since March 2005. Israel frequently conduscts arrest raids in the northern West Bank , and Islamic Jihad militants are often a target, reports the AP.


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