Israeli warplanes launched three air strikes in Gaza City in the space of several hours Monday morning, killing two members of the Hamas military wing, one passerby and injuring at least 23 others in the first two strikes, according to Palestinian sources.
A fourth attack took place in the evening after Israeli helicopters fired at least two missiles at a car near the Boureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, killing at least nine Palestinian civilians and wounding more than 70 others, according to Palestinian witnesses. The target of this attack was top Hamas activist, Imad Akel, but according to Palestinian sources, he escaped from the car seconds before the missiles were launched.
Residents said one of the dead was a doctor who was treating victims when a second missile struck.
The fifth air strike on Gaza City reported about one hour later. At least one missile landed just east of Gaza City. One man was wounded.
Before these latest attacks, Syria-based leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowed retaliation against Israel after a meeting between their organizations, and they called on other Palestinian activists to work with them.
Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas' political bureau, and Ramadan Abdullah Sallah, the leader of Islamic Jihad held talks and issued a statement saying, "The two movements agreed to confront the Zionist aggression on our people ... and to urge all factions and resistance forces to coordinate."
Meanwhile, there was no immediate word of casualties in the third strike, in which Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the Sajaiyeh neighborhood in the eastern part of the Strip's main city.
In this attack, Apache helicopters launched two
missiles at a car. One hit the vehicle, completely destroying it, while the other landed unexploded in a nearby field. The car's passengers apparently escaped before the missile hit, witnesses said.
Several hours after striking for the first time, an Israeli gunship helicopter fired missiles at a car in Gaza City, killing three people and wounding another five, Palestinian medics said.
Two of the dead - Khaled al Masri and Eyad Hilou - were members of Hamas militay wing, reports said. According to Palestinian sources, this strike hit a pickup car driving in Al Jala'a street in Gaza city.
The pickup had stopped at a traffic light near a gas station, when the missiles hit the front of the vehicle.
Earlier, missiles fired by an Israeli war planes hit a building 200 meters from the home of prominent Islamic Jihad official, Abdullah Shami, in the Gaza Strip on Monday, injuring at least 14 people, including two children aged two and three. Shami was not hurt.
The building targeted belonged to the Mushtaha family, some of whose members are also activists in Islamic Jihad. Most of the two-story house was demolished.
"I want to thank God for the survival of Sheikh Abdullah Shami, and I assure you that he is okay," Islamic Jihad spokesman Khaled Batsh said at the scene.
The aerial attack took place in in the Al Jidaiyda area of the Sajaiyeh neighborhood in the eastern part of Gaza city.
Witnesses said there were F-16 fighter jets and combat helicopters flying overhead at the time of the attack but it was not clear which aircraft had fired the missiles.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the raid, saying that it would only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence.
The authority "vigorously condemns this grave Israeli escalation in a densely populated area in the Al-Shajaiya neighbourhood in Gaza", said chief negotiator Saeb Erakat.
"It is not assassinations, the building of walls and settlements which will break the cycle of violence but rather the peace process and negotiations," Erakat told AFP.
On its part and in an attempt to cover its failure, the Israeli army said the targeted building was used by Hamas for manufacturing weapons. Hamas used the building to manufacture explosive devices, Qassam rockets, mortars and anti-tank missiles, according to the army. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )