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Israeli attack kills Hamas military wing leader

Gaza residents huddle around a car hit by Israeli helicopters.
Gaza residents huddle around a car hit by Israeli helicopters.

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CNN's Kelly Wallace reports an Israeli missile strike that killed a top Hamas leader could complicate U.S. Secy. of State Colin Powell's weekend trip to the region (May 8)
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Two Israeli Apache helicopters fired at least three missiles Thursday at a car in Gaza City, killing Eyad al Bik, a leader of Izzedine al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, Palestinian security sources said.

Israel security sources confirmed al Bik had been killed and said he was involved in initiating and planning suicide attacks inside Israel.

A CNN camera crew witnessed the strike, which happened shortly after noon (5 a.m. EDT). The car carrying al Bik was passing a residential area when it was fired upon.

Crowds quickly gathered around the wreckage and chanted support for Hamas.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Izzedine al Qassam has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and attacks against the Israeli military.

Israeli security sources said al Bik was involved in a large number of attacks over the past two years that killed 19 Israeli civilians and soldiers and injured many more.

Al Bik became a Hamas activist in the early 1990s and spent two years in an Israeli jail between 1992 and 1994.

In 1999, he was involved in an organization connected to al Qaeda members, Israeli security sources said. The group was planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets and to kidnap Israeli soldiers, the sources said.

The plot was exposed during Israeli interrogation of group leader Nabil Ukal. Ukal was arrested in June 2000 while returning to the region from Afghanistan, according to the sources.

Al Bik's death came two days before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was due in the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are considering a so-called road map toward peace in the region proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet President Bush in Washington on May 20 to discuss the road map, a senior Israeli official told CNN. (Full story)

Thursday's attack was the latest Israeli airstrike on suspected militants in Gaza in the past two months.

On April 8, an Israeli warplane destroyed a Subaru car carrying another Izzedine al-Qassam leader, Palestinian security officials told CNN.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, citing Israeli security sources, identified him as Sa'id Arbid and said he had been involved in dozens of attacks on Israelis since the 1990s.

A month earlier, March 8, an Israeli helicopter attack killed Ibrahim Al-Makadmah -- considered a founder of Izzedine al Qassam -- and three of his bodyguards.

An Israeli security source said Al-Makadmah, 55, was directly responsible for attacks in Gaza that had killed 28 Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian attacker dies near Gaza settlement

Meanwhile, near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in Gaza, two Palestinians attacked an Israel Defense Forces post Thursday night, Israeli military sources said.

One attacker opened fire at the Israeli post and the other drove a car with explosives into an Israeli armored vehicle, setting off a blast that killed the driver, the Israeli sources said. The Israeli military said soldiers were not injured.

Palestinian sources said the car attack was a suicide bombing.

Autopsy of cameraman reported

Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported autopsy results for a British journalist James Miller, who was killed Friday in Rafah, in Gaza, covering a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

The autopsy reportedly indicated Miller, a cameraman, was shot from the front and not from behind, an assertion originally made by Israeli military officials.

Miller is best known for his work on two award-winning documentaries, "Beneath the Veil" and "The Unholy War," which appeared on CNN and helped expose the world to the impact of Islamic fundamentalist Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

The programs won dozens of awards for news and documentaries in Britain and the United States -- including a Peabody, an Emmy and a BAFTA for best documentary.

Miller and reporter Saira Shah were in Rafah filming a documentary for HBO on the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Palestinian children in the area.

Miller, 34, was the second journalist to be killed in as many weeks while covering Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian cameraman Nazih Darwazah was killed in a clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians April 19 in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Seven journalists have been killed in the region since the start of the latest Palestinian intifada in September 2000.

CNN Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.

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