Israelis rocket Palestinian targets in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Israeli rockets pounded the offices of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement and Palestinian police headquarters Thursday in retaliation for a roadside bomb that killed two Romanian workers who were fortifying Israel’s border fence with the Gaza Strip.
Twenty Palestinians were wounded in the rocket attack, most of them lightly, Palestinian doctors said.
The renewed violence was accompanied by bitter verbal exchanges, and neither the Israelis nor Palestinians expressed any optimism that recent diplomatic initiatives would end more than seven months of fighting.
Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said Israel had declared a ”war of terror” against the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, referring to the rocketing, said ”this strategy will continue until the Palestinian violence stops.”
In Israel’s Thursday afternoon attack, the army sent five surface-to-surface rockets whistling into Gaza City. As the rockets neared their targets, Palestinians on the streets heard their approach and scrambled for cover even before the thundering explosions.
Palestinian policemen ran out of the walled police headquarters in the center of the city as black smoke rose into the sky. Rescue workers rushed into the building, even as more rockets crashed down.
Palestinian police Lt. Ahmed Abbas said he was sitting on a chair in the courtyard when one rocket hit. He said he was thrown into the air and the ground shook.
Four rockets hit the Palestinian police headquarters, including two that landed in the weapons department where police officers have their assault rifles repaired and store their ammunition. After the rocket attack, policemen carried dozens of M-16 rifles and boxes with bullets out of the building. Flames shot out of the second-floor window.
A fifth rocket slammed into the second-floor offices of Fatah, about 400 yards east of Palestinian leader Arafat’s seaside headquarters. The facade of the building was damaged and black smoke poured out a window.
The rocket attack came several hours after the killing of the two Romanian workers. The Romanians, employed by Israel, had been working on strengthening the border fence between Israel and Gaza when the roadside bomb went off. A third worker was injured.
In recent years, Israel has allowed in an increased number of workers from East Asia and Eastern Europe, lessening the country’s dependence on Palestinian workers. Since the violence erupted last September, Israel has closed off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, preventing tens of thousands of Palestinians from reaching their jobs inside Israel.
Shortly after the bomb attack, Israeli bulldozers razed Palestinian farmland and a police station near a crossing point with Gaza.
Over the past two days, Israeli forces have carried out six such incursions into Palestinian territory, part of a recent policy to hit at areas used for cover by Palestinian militants. Dozens of Palestinian homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of people left homeless.
Thursday’s violence came a day after the bodies of two Israeli boys, one an immigrant from Maryland, were found bludgeoned to death by rocks in a cave in the West Bank.
The boys, Koby Mandell, 13, and Yossi Ishran, 14, had gone on a hike near their home in the Jewish settlement of Tekoa on Tuesday, and were seized, presumably by Palestinians, and killed.
”Stoned to death,” read the headline in the Yediot Ahronot daily Thursday, using the single Hebrew word ”Skila,” which refers to one of four forms of capital punishment in ancient Jewish law.
Koby’s family immigrated to Israel in 1996 and settled in Tekoa two years ago. Twenty-one Palestinians were arrested in connection with the killing, and police said they were following a lead in the case.
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