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Israeli strike kills seven in Gaza

Israeli gunships attacked three targets in Gaza on Wednesday, killing seven people.
Israeli gunships attacked three targets in Gaza on Wednesday, killing seven people.

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli helicopter gunships struck three targets in Gaza on Wednesday, killing seven people, including two leading members of the radical Islamic group Hamas.

Palestinian sources said Masoud Al-Tito and Suhel Abu Hamad were killed when missiles struck a vehicle. An Israeli military source told CNN the Gaza strike had been planned in advance and was not a response to a suicide bombing that just minutes before had killed 16 people aboard a Jerusalem bus.

Palestinian hospital sources said 30 were wounded in the strike that killed the two Hamas leaders.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's Jerusalem bombing. It has admitted responsibility for previous terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

The upswing in violence followed last week's summit in Aqaba, Jordan, in which Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged to President Bush they would follow a new "road map" to peace.

The road map, drafted by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, was already in jeopardy after militant attacks Sunday on Israeli soldiers in Gaza and an Israeli strike Tuesday wounding a Hamas leader.

Hamas backed out of truce talks with the Palestinian Authority last week. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas had been working with militant Palestinian groups in recent weeks to try to flesh out a cease-fire agreement.

On Sunday, four Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza in a coordinated attack by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The three groups claimed responsibility for the killings in an apparent challenge to Abbas. In a separate shooting Sunday, an Israeli soldier was killed in the West Bank town of Hebron.

On Tuesday, a jeep carrying Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi was a target of Israeli attacks. Two people were killed in that strike, according to Palestinian sources, but Rantissi survived.

Israeli security sources said Rantissi was behind the weekend attack that killed the soldiers in Gaza.


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