Palestinians: Israeli helicopter strike kills 5
Two Israelis wounded in separate attack in West Bank
TUBAS, West Bank (CNN) -- A commander of the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was among five Palestinians killed Saturday in an Israeli helicopter missile strike in the northern West Bank, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.
The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement acknowledging the attack, saying its soldiers were trying to prevent terrorist attacks expected in the next few days. The action was part of Israel's fight against terrorism, the IDF said.
In a separate incident Saturday, two Israelis were seriously wounded by a Palestinian gunman who entered the Jewish settlement Har Bracha near Nablus, the Israel Defense Forces said. The victims were airlifted to a hospital. The Israelis killed the gunman.
The Al Aqsa leader killed in the helicopter strike was identified by the Red Crescent Society as Ashraf Darghma. Two of his bodyguards and two children playing near the car carrying the men also died. Four Palestinians were wounded, including two women, in the attack northwest of Nablus. Three rockets were fired from two Israeli Apache helicopters.
"They [IDF] hit a car of people planning an attack," the Israeli military said. "At least one of the wanted men was hit. The IDF regrets injuries that may have occurred -- as a result of the attack -- on innocent civilians."
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said the five dead Palestinians were members of the same family.
"The Palestinian Authority condemns the brutal Israeli attack that claimed the lives of five Palestinians from the same family in Tubas, including Ashraf Darghma, commander of Al Aqsa, and his 6-year-old sister," Erakat said.
"We hold the Israeli government responsible for this crime," he said. "We believe this is the continual effort of [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's government to undermine the efforts being made to revive the peace process."
Al Aqsa is an offshoot of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, and has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks across Israel. The U.S. State Department has declared it a terrorist organization.
-- CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers contributed to this report.
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