Islamic Jihad leader killed in Gaza

Palestinian militants kill Jewish settler, wound second Israeli in the West Bank

March 02, 2006|By LAURA KING | LAURA KING,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- A fiery explosion yesterday in the middle of a busy street killed the top commander of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian militant group blamed Israel, which denied any involvement.

Adding to tensions, gunmen in the West Bank killed a Jewish settler and seriously wounded a second Israeli. Such roadside attacks were common at the height of the Palestinian uprising but had become less common over the past year.

The explosion came as Islamic Jihad commander Khaled Dahdouh was driving through the center of Gaza City. The blast sent shrapnel and body parts flying on a crowded street in the Rimal neighborhood.

The blast injured two apparent bystanders, Palestinian medical officials said. It shattered windows in nearby apartments, damaged parked cars and briefly knocked out power to the area.

"I ran outside to see what had happened, and I saw the burning car and pieces of a body," said Yousef Habush, an electrician.

When Israeli forces carry out a "targeted killing" of a Palestinian militant, the military generally acknowledges having done so. But an army spokeswoman denied responsibility for Dahdouh's death, though Israel has tried to kill him in the past.

"We had nothing at all to do with the explosion," said Maj. Avital Leibovich.

Islamic Jihad vowed vengeance against Israel.

"We will attack in full force to avenge this crime," said a spokesman for the group who calls himself Abu Hafs.

Islamic Jihad said Dahdouh was responsible for many attacks against Israelis and had commanded the group's military wing in Gaza as well as overseeing its manufacture of arms, including homemade rockets. But the group dismissed the possibility that Dahdouh might have been transporting explosives that went off accidentally.

Unlike the larger and more powerful militant group Hamas, Islamic Jihad over the past year has pressed ahead with a campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel. The Israelis have repeatedly targeted its members in response.

With Israel's parliamentary elections less than a month away, Israeli leaders and candidates have been pledging tough action against Palestinian militants who carry out attacks against Israelis.

In the first of the two shootings yesterday in the West Bank, Palestinian gunmen killed Eldar Abir, 48, of the Jewish settlement of Migdalim, about eight miles southeast of Nablus. He was ambushed as he fueled his car at a gas station at the settlement entrance. The gunmen escaped.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militia with links to the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, claimed responsibility for the killing. Israeli police were investigating the incident.

"We are doing everything we can to provide freedom of movement for Palestinians," said Leibovich, the army spokeswoman. "But with events like today's, we wish the Palestinian Authority would take steps to change the security situation."

An Israeli motorist was seriously wounded in another shooting, on a road near the West Bank town of Qalqilya. The Israeli army launched a manhunt for the assailants but was unable to find them.

Laura King writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.