Israeli airstrike kills two militants

Attack in Gaza Strip injures at least six


JERUSALEM -- An Israeli airstrike killed two militants in the Gaza Strip and wounded at least six other people, and a Palestinian fatally stabbed an Israeli soldier at a West Bank checkpoint yesterday, in a continuing surge of violence triggered by a suicide bombing earlier this week.

The airstrike was the second in two days, after Israeli security chiefs decided to resume targeted killings of Palestinian militants in response to the bombing Monday in the coastal city of Netanya that killed five Israelis.

In yesterday's strike, an Israeli aircraft launched missiles at a group from the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in a house near the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses and the army said.

Two Al Aqsa leaders, identified as Iyad Qadas and Iyad Najar, were killed and a third was wounded, medics said.

At least five other people were also wounded, one of them an 11-year-old girl, the Associated Press reported.

The army said that Qadas and Najar had orchestrated attacks against Israeli army positions and settlements in the Gaza Strip before the Israeli withdrawal from the territory, and since then were involved in firing of mortars and rockets at Israel.

On Wednesday an Israeli airstrike killed a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, another militant group.

Although Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the Netanya bombing, the Israeli strikes have targeted members of other factions, apparently because Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip have gone into hiding and are difficult to find.

The Palestinian Authority has rounded up Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank in recent days, acting under strong pressure from the United States and Israel to crack down.

Islamic Jihad officials said that dozens were arrested, but the Palestinian Authority said that fewer than 20 had been detained.

Palestinian officials warned that Israel's military strikes would only inflame tensions.

"The Israeli action is going to sabotage the efforts made by the Palestinian Authority to maintain calm and revive the peace process," said Tawfik Abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry.

Israel barred all Palestinians from entering Israel after the Netanya bombing and suspended talks on opening a travel link between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Bus convoys between the two territories were to begin operating by next Thursday, according to an agreement on Gaza border crossings brokered last month by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In other violence yesterday, a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier at the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, a major crossing point between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

The Palestinian pulled out a knife and stabbed the soldier in the neck during a security check, the army said.

The attacker, from a village near Ramallah, was arrested. The soldier was identified as Sgt. Nir Kahana, 20.

The army indefinitely closed the Qalandia checkpoint after the attack.

Thousands of Palestinians cross through the checkpoint daily to reach jobs and schools.

Joel Greenberg writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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