Israeli fighter jets strike building in Gaza Strip

Monday, July 15, 2002

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel deployed fighter jets over the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday and fired missiles at a building, destroying it and injuring about 10 Palestinians, witnesses and hospital officials said.

In the pandemonium that ensued, a Palestinian man on trial for allegedly collaborating with Israel to kill Palestinians was shot and killed by Hamas militants, a judge said.

Separately, a Palestinian teen-ager was killed in the northern Gaza Strip after Israeli tanks moved into the area, Palestinians said. And in the West Bank, Israeli troops killed a 24-year-old Palestinian who tried to attack soldiers in their jeep, the army and witnesses said.

In the airstrike, three Israeli helicopters and two fighter planes were in the sky at the time the missile struck the three-story building Qarara, near the southern town of Khan Younis, witnesses said.

Military sources said a fighter jet had attacked the building because it served as a laboratory for making explosives recently used against its forces in Gaza. The building was also a meeting place for members of the militant Hamas group, an army statement said.

Debris injures 10

Residents said the building was empty at the time of the attack, but the flying debris injured about 10 people and destroyed the building.

The army statement said Yusef Abdel Wahab, a member of Hamas' military wing sought by Israeli forces, owned the building and ran the explosives lab.

Abdel Wahab left only moments before Sunday's strike and was not harmed, Israel's Army Radio reported, citing Palestinians in the region.

The air strike followed Palestinian mortar attacks Saturday night and Sunday morning at the nearby Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom. No one was hurt at the settlement.

The Gaza Strip has been relatively quiet compared to the West Bank and it has been weeks since Israel deployed helicopters or fighter aircraft over the area. All the more than 70 suicide bombings against Israel in the past two years have come from the West Bank. Palestinian militants have carried out periodic shooting and mortar attacks against Jewish settlers in Gaza.

After the airstrikes, members of the militant group Hamas shot and killed a Palestinian man who was on trial for allegedly collaborating with Israel in the killing of five Hamas members in southern Gaza last month, the court judge said.

Court proceedings for Abdel Hai Sababi, 48, had gone into recess and Sababi was in a detention room when the Israeli aircraft fired the missiles not far from the court, said Brig. Gen. Abdel Aziz Wadi, chairman of the court.

During the chaos, some members of Hamas broke into the detention room and fatally shot Sababi, Wadi said.

Later Sunday, Israeli tanks moved into a Palestinian town in northern Gaza, Beit Lahiya, near the Jewish settlement of Gadid, and shot and killed 17-year-old Nidal Amudi as he walked through a farm, Palestinian preventive security forces and officials at Shifa Hospital said.

Army officials denied tanks had moved into the area, but said soldiers had returned fire after mortar shells were fired at a Jewish settlement in the area.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, a 24-year-old Palestinian, Gazi Abu Obieh, was killed in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus after he tried to attack an Israeli jeep with a knife, witnesses said. The army said troops fired after the man first threw a petrol bomb in their direction, then rushed the jeep with a knife.

An army spokesman said the incident occurred after Israeli forces had reinstated the curfew on Nablus which had been lifted for a few hours Sunday.

The violence came as the Israeli Cabinet confirmed plans for Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other Israeli officials to meet "in the coming days" with Palestinian Cabinet members, a statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said.

Israeli officials postponed the third round of talks Saturday night, saying they needed more time to consult among themselves before discussing ways to improve the economic situation among Palestinians.

Gissin said the meeting with the Palestinians wouldn't deal with any political issues, just economic ones, and said political negotiations would only take place "after there is a different Palestinian Authority and there are full-fledged, comprehensive reforms."

The United States has said it won't deal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and has demanded a host of reforms in the Palestinian financial, security, judicial and political apparatus.

Meanwhile, after a week of sharp criticism, Sharon's Cabinet changed its position Sunday and decided not to support legislation that would prevent Arab citizens from buying land in some Jewish communities.

But the issue has not yet been fully settled, and Sharon said he and his government still support the idea of allowing religious and ethnic groups to have their own communities.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: