Gaza Strip: Three Palestinians killed in clash following assassination of senior activist

Published March 31st, 2006 - 08:42 GMT

A commander of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) died on Friday in Gaza City, hospital officials said. Palestinian witnesses said he was killed in an Israeli air strike on his car, but later his followers blamed the PA. Hospital officials identified the victim as Abu Yusuf Abu Quka.


PRC spokesman Abu Abir said the Preventive Security service had been trying to kill Abu Quka for some time, and that members of the security agency were caught Thursday spying on his home.


"It's a long history of conflict between us and preventive security," Abu Abir said.


A shootout between PRC  members and the PA Preventive Security service erupted shortly after the blast. Hundreds of gunmen marched through the streets of Gaza City to protest the killing. At least three Palestinian were killed and some 20 wounded in the exchanges of fire.


On his part, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, said of about the Gaza incident: "It means that the Israeli aggression will not stop. It means our resistance should continue."


According to Haaretz, Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the army to step up assassinations of Palestinian activists responsible for the firing of rockets and a Katyusha rocket this week from the Gaza Strip. However, Israel denied any involvement in the killing of Abu Quka.


The Israeli army started late Thursday night to bomb areas in the northern Gaza Strip, as part of a policy of increasing pressure on the Palestinians. Israel said the bombing came in response to rocket fire Thursday afternoon which slightly wounded two Israelis.


Earlier, Israel confirmed that four Israelis had died when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated explosives in a car after nightfall Thursday at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Kedumim, located near Nablus.


The vehicle blew up at around 9:45 P.M. next to the Kedumim gas station.


A new group linked to Fatah, the party headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, from the Balata refugee camp in nearby Nablus, identified the bomber as Mahmoud Masharka, 24, from the West Bank city of Hebron.

 A senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades told Ynet following the attack that the group is preparing additional attacks. He stated that the car bomb in Kedumim included "a brilliant diversion."

According to Israeli police sources, the Israelis in the car had apparently picked up the suicide bomber, who was dressed as an observant Jew, as he was hitchhiking on the road. He then exploded in the car.


A rescue service official said medics could not approach the car, because it was still on fire nearly an hour after the explosion. 

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