Israeli airstrike kills Hamas militant, wounds 25
Second attack targets militants' weapons warehouse
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli helicopters struck twice against Hamas on Friday, hitting a car carrying several militants and then a warehouse where the group stored rockets, sources said.
Two helicopters gunships fired a missile at a car carrying four Hamas militants, killing 29-year-old Fuad al-Lithouwee and wounding 25 people, Palestinian sources said.
Palestinian doctors said seven children were among the wounded.
The Israel Defense Forces said the target was a terrorist cell that had carried out attacks against Israelis and "was on its way to carry out another terror attack and launch Qassam rockets at Israeli targets."
Israeli military sources said the members of the cell were carrying the rockets in their car when the vehicle was hit.
About three hours later, two Israeli Apache helicopters fired at least one missile at a target in Gaza, destroying a Hamas weapons warehouse, the IDF and Palestinian sources said.
No one was killed or injured in the second strike of the night, Palestinian hospital sources said.
The weapons warehouse contained Qassam rockets, according to the IDF.
The Qassam is a primitive, homemade rocket with a range of up to six miles [nearly 10 kilometers]. (Qassam rocket)
After the missile hit the warehouse -- owned by Hamas activist Mohammad Sarsour -- there were several loud blasts, which Palestinian sources said were the sounds of the Hamas weapons exploding.
A nearby house was not damaged, Palestinian sources said.
Earlier in the day, Palestinians fired a Qassam rocket from northern Gaza into the Israeli town of Sderot, Israeli military sources said. No one was killed. The IDF, in its statement, said 15 Qassam rockets have been fired at Israeli targets by Palestinians since June 5.
Israel has launched repeated missile strikes against members of Hamas throughout the week, following repeated terrorist attacks.
The latest attack came as U.S. officials worked to persuade Palestinian militant groups to end their attacks on Israel to avoid a breakdown of the "road map" to Mideast peace.
"All of our efforts are focused on Hamas, and persuading Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations that this is the time to abandon terror," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday.
Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice have called Arab leaders in hopes of persuading them to cut off political and financial support to Hamas. (Full story)
Israelis, Palestinians mourn dead
Israelis and Palestinians are mourning victims of a week of violence in which more than 50 people have been killed.
Jerusalem was the scene of another terror attack Wednesday, when 17 people were killed in a suicide bus bombing. This week, Israel launched five airstrikes in Gaza that it said targeted Islamic militants.
Twenty-four people, including five Israeli soldiers, have been killed in Palestinian attacks, while at least 30 Palestinians have died, including members of Hamas as well as civilians. One of the dead was the suicide bomber in Jerusalem.
Saying "Hamas is our al Qaeda," one senior Israeli official asserted that "it's an all-out war."
In turn, the militant group Hamas issued a leaflet saying the Jerusalem bus attack was the "beginning" of its offensive against all Israelis.
The IDF said two Israeli women were wounded Friday in an ambush by Palestinian gunmen north of the West Bank town of Ramallah. The women were evacuated to a hospital, according to Israeli army and medical sources.
A little more than a week ago, at a summit in Aqaba, Jordan, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon voiced conciliatory first steps in a process leading to co-existence between Israel and a Palestinian state.
In an attempt to salvage those steps toward peace, a U.S. team led by Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, the Bush administration's point man in the Middle East, is headed to the region this weekend.
Surge in violence
On Tuesday, Israel launched missile strikes in Gaza in an attempted assassination against Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi, one of the militant group's most visible figures
After President Bush criticized Israel, the Israeli government gave the White House intelligence information. After the bus bombing, Bush said Hamas was preventing peace in the Middle East.
Israeli officials contend that Abbas has done nothing to crack down on terror. During a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Sharon described Abbas as a "chick" who needs time to "grow feathers."
Palestinian leaders accuse Israel of trying to sabotage steps toward peace by launching military attacks instead of giving Abbas an opportunity to build support and persuade militant groups to stop their attacks.
Abbas has said he wants to stop the terror attacks by negotiating a cease-fire with militant groups and has said he won't be drawn into a Palestinian civil war.
Hamas issued a stark fax to news agencies Thursday, saying international visitors should leave Israel to protect themselves.
"The Jerusalem attack is the beginning of a new series of revenge attacks ... in which we will target every Zionist occupying our land," Hamas said.
-- CNN correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.