Israeli missile hits car

3 die

October 14, 2006|By Ken Ellingwood | Ken Ellingwood,Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip yesterday, in a second day of clashes that mark the deadliest flare-up in weeks.

At least 13 people have died in separate military actions since Thursday morning, about half of them civilians, according to Palestinian officials.

In the latest incident, three Hamas militants were killed near Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the car in which they were riding.

The Israeli military said the car was loaded with homemade Kassam rockets that the men planned to fire across the border into southern Israel. Militants launched six Kassams a day earlier after an Israeli raid killed six people near the town of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Earlier yesterday, Palestinian officials said a 32-year-old woman died from gunfire outside her home in Abasan, a village near Khan Younis where Israeli forces have operated since Thursday. Israeli army officials said they were unaware of any shots hitting civilians. A military spokeswoman said soldiers had fired at two gunmen who approached, hitting both fighters and killing one.

Meanwhile, a 38-year-old man died of wounds suffered a night earlier during an Israeli missile strike on a house in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood on the eastern edge of Gaza City. The strike targeted Ashraf Farwana, a senior Hamas militant, but he was not home.

Killed instead were his brother, Ayman, and an 8-year-old girl in an adjoining house. A hospital spokesman initially said that the girl was 2.

Israel renewed military operations in Gaza after the June 25 capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants. The latest fighting has added to turmoil in the impoverished coastal enclave, coming amid factional clashes between the ruling Hamas movement and its main rival, Fatah.

At least 10 people were injured early yesterday during a shootout between the rival groups in Beit Lahiya.

The encounter was apparently triggered by the fatal shooting of a Hamas militant the previous night by gunmen who appeared at his home and opened fire. That shooting followed the slaying of a 30-year-old officer of the Palestinian intelligence service, which is loyal to Fatah.

Also yesterday, a mob burned down a Gaza radio station affiliated with Fatah. The owner said the attackers were members of Hamas.

The two groups have been locked in a power struggle since Hamas won control of the government by defeating Fatah in parliamentary elections in January. Talks aimed at forging a unity government have deadlocked over Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas, announced a tentative agreement last month but it fell apart almost immediately.

Officials in both factions had hoped that a new government lineup could help break a months-long international aid embargo against Hamas, which much of the West classifies as a terrorist group.

In other developments, Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at checkpoints leading to Jerusalem to protest restrictions on Muslim prayers at Al Aqsa mosque in the walled Old City. Police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd after youths hurled rocks, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Israel has barred men under 40 years old from attending Friday prayers at the mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, citing security concerns. Arab leaders have decried the restrictions as a violation of religious freedom.

More than 150,000 worshipers attended yesterday's prayers.

Ken Ellingwood writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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