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JERUSALEM (AP) – In a day filled with explosions, Israeli helicopters pounded Palestinian police headquarters with rockets Monday in the Gaza Strip, while the two sides argued over who was behind a West Bank blast that killed six Palestinian activists in a car parts store.

The violence included a Palestinian mortar attack in Gaza that injured a 9-year-old Jewish girl, and a bomb placed in a beer can that exploded in a supermarket in Jerusalem, causing damage but no injuries.

The rapid succession of events kept the region on hair-trigger alert, while Israeli and Palestinian leaders reasserted positions that have kept them at odds throughout the 10-month-old crisis.

The Palestinians again called for international monitors and said Israel’s policy of targeted attacks was fueling the conflict. “Any delay in providing international protection for the Palestinian people will only bring the situation closer to a complete collapse,” said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.

But Israel is deeply reluctant to bring in international observers, and says it must act against Palestinian militants because Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat refuses to rein them in.

“There is no cycle of violence,” said Daniel Ayalon, foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. “There is Palestinian violence, and then there are some responses that we have to take for self-defense.”

The two sides were completely at odds over the predawn explosion that ripped through a car parts store outside Nablus in the West Bank. Six Palestinian activists in Arafat’s Fatah movement were killed in one of the deadliest single episodes in 10 months of Mideast violence.

Palestinians called the blast part of Israel’s efforts to kill suspected militants. “The Israeli government continues its policy of assassination,” said Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman.

But Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof called the explosion a “work accident,” Israel’s euphemism for a Palestinian-made bomb that goes off prematurely. “This is not the first time that the Palestinians have accused Israel of assassinations when explosions like this occurred,” she told army radio.

Israeli security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said three of the Palestinians were wanted by Israel. They were believed to be involved in two bomb attacks in recent months, the sources said.

The force of the blast blew the roof off the shack, and it was badly burned inside, suggesting the explosion came from within the structure.

The store is near the al-Fara refugee camp. Palestinian Mansour Barahmah said he was sleeping when he heard a powerful explosion shortly after 1 a.m. Monday.

“I went there immediately and found a fire,” he said. “The bodies were still burning.”

The bodies were dismembered by the explosion, and some body parts were tossed yards from a table where the men had been sitting on old car seats, he said. Playing cards, which were apparently in use at the time, were smeared with blood.

All six of the dead regularly slept in the shack, fearing the Israelis would attack them in their homes, Palestinian witnesses said. A seventh man in the shack was seriously wounded, they added.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City, wounding two policemen and sending white smoke rising from the compound as people ran frantically from the buildings into the street.

The Israeli military said the compound was used for secretly manufacturing weapons and mortar rounds. But Palestinian police said the four rockets hit a deserted sleeping area, near the compound’s arsenal.

The police compound is near Arafat’s seaside offices, though he was not in the area at the time.

Jewish settlements in Gaza have come under frequent mortar attack, including a Monday morning assault that injured the 9-year-old Jewish girl in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Darom.

In other violence Monday:

An Israeli was stabbed, apparently by a Palestinian, just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Police said he was critically wounded.

Two paramilitary border police were shot and seriously wounded at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank, according to police and media reports. The gunshots came from a passing car.

Two Palestinians, ages 17 and 11, were shot by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, Palestinian security sources said. The Palestinians claimed the Israelis fired without provocation, the Israeli army said troops came under fire from anti-tank grenades and shot back.

The tension in Jerusalem was such that twice during the day the pop of bus tires going flat caused a panic, with police closing off roads and ambulances rushing to the scene, sirens wailing.

The violence since September has killed 539 people on the Palestinian side and 133 people on the Israeli side.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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