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Israeli airstrikes kill three Palestinians

Sunday, February 5, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli aircraft fired three missiles at a building used by militants in Gaza City late Sunday local time, killing three people and wounding five, Palestinian hospital officials said.

The three killed were senior field operatives of Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the hospital said. Field operatives plan and carry out rocket attacks and other assaults on Israeli targets.

Some of the dead and wounded were pulling away in a car from the targeted building when a missile struck, leaving their vehicle an unrecognizable heap of charred and twisted metal. Four of the wounded were security personnel guarding Preventive Security headquarters near the Al Aqsa facility, the hospital said.

The Israeli military said the strike was meant to deter rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, such as one that wounded an Israeli baby and two adults in southern Israel on Friday.

After that attack, claimed by Islamic Jihad militants, and another one Friday in which rockets landed near the city of Ashkelon, Israel also fired dozens of artillery rounds at northern Gaza and eastern Gaza City.

The Israeli military said the airstrike targeted a training camp for Al Aqsa operatives, and a rocket- and mortar-launching site. Palestinians said the facility was an Al Aqsa sports club and sports training camp.

The car was traveling on a small street between the Al Aqsa facility and Palestinian Preventive Security offices.

Dozens of Al Aqsa members and supporters of the affiliated Fatah Party gathered outside the hospital after the airstrike, some firing rifles in the air outside the morgue. One Al Aqsa member, who identified himself as Abu Mujahed, accused Israel of carrying out a targeted killing of group operatives, but the Israeli military denied that.

"God willing, our rockets, our self-sacrificing martyrs and all the means of resistance will chase out the Zionists from every corner of our occupied land," Abu Mujahed said. "God willing, our revenge will come by deeds, and not by words."

A second airstrike several hours later targeted a bridge near the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun that Palestinian militants used to gain access to rocket-launching sites, the Israeli military said.

Palestinian security officials and witnesses said the two missiles landed in an empty field near the border with Israel, and the Israeli military said it couldn't confirm the missiles hit their target.


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