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Israeli strikes kill father and son, Islamic Jihad leader
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip killed a militant leader and a father and his son, officials said today, bringing to 75 the number of Palestinians killed in a weeklong offensive aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns.
The violence came hours after an Israeli missile strike killed a leader of Islamic Jihad and another member of the violent group in Gaza City, officials said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he hoped the Israeli campaign in northern Gaza -- the deadliest in the strip in four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting -- would end soon.
On a visit to Brazil, Powell said the administration wants to "see the end of these rockets coming out of Gaza and destroying the hopes of the Palestinian people and all of us for peace."
At the United Nations, the United States late Tuesday vetoed an Arab-backed resolution that demanded an immediate end to the military operations and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.
Nearly half the 75 Palestinians killed and 60 percent of the more than 400 wounded in the campaign were civilians, Palestinian hospital officials said. Israeli troops have also demolished dozens of houses to carve out paths for tanks, mainly in Jebaliya.
In one of the latest deaths, a 15-year-old youth shot on Tuesday died of his wounds, doctors said. Residents said he was standing on the balcony of his house next to the Jebaliya camp when he was shot in the head.
The father and his son died early today when an Israeli tank shell hit their house next to Jebaliya camp. Israeli military sources said soldiers returned fire at a building where militants shot an anti-tank rocket at them.
In Gaza City, an Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a car Tuesday, killing a top official of Islamic Jihad -- Bashir Aldabash, 40 -- and another member of the group, Zarees Alareer. The first missile missed, but the second hit the vehicle, which burst into flames.
The army said Aldabash was "responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks."
Later Tuesday, an Israeli aircraft attacked a group of militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Jebaliya, according to witnesses and the militant group. The attack killed two militants and wounded two other militants and six civilians.
Israeli security officials have said targeted killings of Palestinian militants were also part of the offensive, "Days of Penitence," which was launched last week, after two Israeli children, ages 2 and 4, were killed by Palestinian rocket fire on a border town.
An Israeli military official said Palestinian security officials have delivered messages through mediators, offering to try to prevent rocket fire on Israeli towns if Israel ends the operation. However, Israel appears to be in no rush to pull back.
A senior Palestinian official said he was unaware of contacts with Israel, which refuses to negotiate directly with the Palestinian Authority.
Late Tuesday, an armored Israeli bulldozer ran over a land mine, setting off a huge explosion. Then tanks fired shells, wounding three people, Palestinians said. The military had no comment.
As the resolution came to a vote in the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth cast the U.S. veto after British and German efforts to find compromise language failed.
"It is dangerously disingenuous because of its many material omissions. Because of this lack of balance, because of these omissions, the resolution lacks credibility and deserves a 'no' vote," he said.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli military said it is re-evaluating its claim that Palestinian militants used a U.N. vehicle to transport a homemade rocket -- an apparent retreat in a high-profile confrontation with the world body. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said it has been informed that Israel will retract the accusation.
Last week, the military distributed a video, taken from an unmanned Israeli aircraft, that showed three Palestinians near a U.N. ambulance in Jebaliya, including one who carried an elongated object and at one point tossed it into the vehicle. UNRWA officials insisted the object was a stretcher, not a rocket.
On Tuesday, the military removed the video from its Web site.
In other developments Tuesday:
-- A 16-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead near the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. The army said the girl placed an explosive charge near an Israeli military outpost, and that when she tried to run away, both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants opened fire in her direction. Residents said she was killed by army fire.
-- Near the West Bank city of Hebron, a wanted Hamas militant was killed by Israeli troops. The army said the man had opened fire on Israeli soldiers during an arrest operation and was killed by return fire.