Israeli helicopters fire missiles near Arafat's headquarters

Saturday, December 1, 2001

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli helicopter gunships fired nine missiles near the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Monday, witnesses said, in apparent retaliation for weekend suicide bombings by Islamic militants.

A large fire could be seen burning at the site, sending a plume of smoke rising over the city. Palestinian security personnel ran away from the area under attack as ambulances raced to the scene, sirens blaring.

Earlier Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held emergency consultations with key Cabinet ministers to decide on an Israeli response to suicide bombings and a shooting attack that killed a total of 26 people and wounded nearly 200, most of them Israelis.

Sharon was to address the nation later Monday, before convening the full Cabinet. Israel Radio, citing Sharon aides, said the Cabinet was expected to approve harsh retaliation, but stop short of crushing Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

Israel has fired missiles several times in the past near the Arafat offices, which are located by the beach in this Mediterranean coastal city, as a warning after flare-ups of violence during the past 14 months of fighting.

It has also used helicopter gunships to directly strike and damage other Palestinian targets, including security installations.

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