Sharon praises airstrike 'success'
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has described an attack on a residential area of Gaza City which killed at least 15 people, including seven children, as "a great success" because it killed its target -- a Hamas military leader.
But the airstrike has received widespread condemnation from across the international community, including Middle East nations, the European Union and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. (Full story)
The White House said Tuesday that the action was "heavy handed" and "does not contribute to peace."
Sharon heaped praise on the F-16 airstrike that killed Salah Shehade, head of the Islamic group Hamas's military wing but he expressed regret about the deaths of 14 other Palestinians. (Full story)
"We of course have no interest in striking civilians and are always sorry over civilians who were struck," Sharon told Cabinet ministers on Tuesday.
"But this operation, in my view, is one of the great successes and of course demands that we will all be on full alert (against further attacks by Hamas). We cannot reach any compromise with terror, terror must be fought."
Israel alleges Shehade is responsible for hundreds of attacks perpetrated by Hamas over the last two years.
CNN's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna said there was intense anger on the streets of Gaza City after the airstrike which had killed and wounded many people, including several children.
Abdel Aziz Al-Rantissi, a spokesman for Hamas, told CNN: "I think Sharon succeeded in the assassination of Salah Shehade with more than eight kids and about five other civilians.
"This massacre of Sharon is considered as escalation of the violence in the area and he should await the retaliation of Hamas."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement saying: "The government of Israel must halt such actions and it must conduct itself in a manner which does not allow for the killing of innocent civilians."
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat called Monday night's attack a "despicable act."
"I don't think Sharon had intended by doing this tonight to give the peace process any chance at all," Erakat said. "Nothing justifies the targeting and the bombardment of this residential area."
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa issued a statement demanding United Nations Security Council intervention.
"The Arab world and the rest of the international community demands protection be provided to the Palestinian people under (Israeli) occupation," Reuters reported him saying.
Palestinian officials said the airstrike hit three buildings in a residential area.
About 150 people were wounded in the strike and bodies were being pulled from rubble, Palestinian security sources said.
In all, seven children -- including a two-month-old baby -- and four adults were killed, Palestinian hospital sources said. The attack left 15 critically wounded.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt also condemned Israel's missile attack.
"It is a horrible act which will be recorded in history against (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon ... It has no ethical, moral or even military justification," Reuters quoted Prince Saud al-Faisal as saying in Cairo.
"We call for severe punishment for these crimes committed against Palestinian people," Prince Saud said.
His Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Maher said: "The international community, and the United States particularly, should not keep silent. I call on it (America) to denounce this act and adopt certain measures to stop such Israeli behavior."
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