Four Israeli navy soldiers were wounded, one lightly and three moderately, off Gaza coast when Palestinian fishing boat exploded late Friday near an Israeli gunship. The two people on the boat were killed. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its two members on the boat were suicide attackers.
Islamic Jihad said Saturday its boat full of explosives rammed the Israeli patrol boat, sinking it, and that an Israeli rescue boat retrieved the four casualties. The army said the patrol boat was damaged but made it back to shore.
In a statement released in Beirut, Islamic Jihad's military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, identified its bombers on the boat as Jamal Ali Ismail, 21, from al-Breij, and Mohammed Samih al-Masri,19, from Beit Hanoun.
Meanwhile, Washington Friday night called on Israel to end its "military operations" in the West Bank town of Bethlehem "as soon as possible." A State Department spokesman said the administration demands Israel take measures to insure the minimization of harming civilians.
"We are also urging the Israelis, in the course of their operations, to keep in mind the consequences of their actions, to complete these operations as quickly as possible and to take steps to avoid further civilian casualties," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told a daily briefing.
The spokesman also demanded from the Palestinians the cessation of attacks against Israelis. He said "such acts" undermine Palestinian interests, presumably the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.
He added: "We continue pressing Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately the terror and violence and work to restore active security contacts and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that supports this type of violence."
On the ground, however, in the village of al-Khader near Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers on Saturday razed the house of Walid Sbeh, an activist killed by Israeli troops in June, and destroyed the home of Atef Abayat, who died in October 2001 in a car bomb that Palestinians blamed on Israel.
The home of Tanzim activist Abdullah abu-Hadid was also destroyed. According to Israel, Abu-Hadid was involved in shooting attacks targeting the Gilo settlement in south Jerusalem.
In Tokoa, to the south, troops demolished the house of Riyad al-Amur, an activist arrested by Israel several months ago. (Albawaba.com)
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