From: Reuters
Published January 16, 2008 06:53 AM

Palestinians on strike over Israel's killing of 18

By Mohammed Assadi

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip observed a general strike on Wednesday, in a rare show of unity after Israel killed 18 people in fighting a day earlier.

"The strike shows that we and Gaza are one people in the face of Israeli massacres," said Majdi Maraqa, as he stood near his shop in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where business came to standstill.

Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians, most of them Hamas militants, in raids in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. It was the highest number of Palestinians killed by Israel in a single day since late 2006.

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Israel said it launched the operations to curb cross-border rocket attacks.

After the raids, the rival leaderships in the Palestinian territories declared three days of mourning and ordered the closure of government offices, businesses, shops and schools.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction holds sway in the West Bank. Hamas Islamists opposed to his peace moves with Israel control the Gaza Strip, where they routed Fatah in fighting in June.

In Gaza, streets were empty and parents kept their children home from school. Shops were also shuttered in the West Bank city of Ramallah, usually a bustling business hub and home to the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian flags flew at half mast.

Abbas and Hamas leaders all used the term "massacre" to describe Tuesday's killings. Medical workers and Hamas said 13 armed Hamas men, three other militants and two civilians were killed.

(Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Charles Dick)

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