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Hamas vows revenge for killings of 4 members

Palestinian rescue workers unload an injured man from an ambulance after Sunday's rocket attack in Gaza.
Palestinian rescue workers unload an injured man from an ambulance after Sunday's rocket attack in Gaza.

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The Palestinian group Hamas vowed revenge Monday after four of its members were killed in an Israeli helicopter attack in Gaza City over the weekend.

In addition, the power struggle over control of Palestinian security forces deepened Monday when Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat -- ignoring calls from the United States that he give his prime minister more authority over security forces -- named Jabril Rajoub head of national security.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had urged Arafat to turn over control of the Palestinian Authority's uniformed police to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his security minister, Muhammad Dahlan.

Witnesses to Sunday's missile attack in Gaza said the four Hamas members ran into a vacant lot near a base housing members of Force 17, Arafat's personal guard, when Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least two missiles about 9:55 p.m. (2:55 p.m. EDT), killing them.

Sources within Hamas identified the dead as Walid el Hams, Ahmed Eshtwi, Ahmed Abu Halala and Muhammad Abu Lubda. A fifth Hamas member was critically wounded, the sources said. Several bystanders received less serious injuries, hospital officials said.

A message posted Monday on a Hamas Web site vowed that an attack against Israel "will come, it is a matter of time."

A senior Palestinian Authority official said that the targeted killings, the second by Israel in a week, were harming the Palestinians' ability to combat militants.

Following the attack, Palestinian militants fired at least four rockets at the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Gaza City, officials said. Israeli troops returned fire. The rockets caused some damage in the settlement but no injuries.

On Monday, Israeli military sources said an anti-tank missile, two mortar rounds and rifle shots were fired at a military outpost near the settlement, and soldiers returned fire.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no attempt to infiltrate the settlement. It said it could not confirm hitting anyone and reported no further firing Monday.

Later Monday, the IDF reported that two Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza at the community of Yesha in the western Negev Desert, but caused no injuries or damage.

Acts of terror
Gaza Strip

One of the rockets landed outside Yesha, which is near the Gaza border. The other fell inside the community boundary, landing about 10 meters from a residential area.

Before the Israeli helicopter attack Sunday, Maj. Gen. Abdel Razek al-Majaydeh, Arafat's security chief in Gaza, ordered his forces to stop militant groups from launching rocket and mortar attacks at Israeli towns and settlements.

Palestinian security forces over the weekend closed four tunnels that been used to smuggle contraband from Egypt, Palestinian sources said. (Full story)

Israeli authorities said the contraband was being used by the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and vowed to stop their access to supplies if the Palestinians did not.

The latest developments followed a meeting between John Wolf, U.S. envoy to the Middle East, and Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat in an attempt to salvage the American-backed "road map" to peace.

In a TV interview Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he plans to visit a number of Arab countries next month. Armitage criticized Arafat and urged him to give full control over security forces to Abbas.

Israeli media are reporting that Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are planning to travel to the region.

The peace process was set back Tuesday by a terrorist attack on Jerusalem bus that killed 21 people and wounded more than 130. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

Five days before the bus bombing, Israel killed a leader of Islamic Jihad, prompting vows of revenge from the militants.

Two days after the suicide attack, Israel killed Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and two of his bodyguards in a missile strike in Gaza, causing an outcry among Palestinians.

After the airstrike on Shanab, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the militant offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement -- said they would no longer abide by their self-declared cease-fire. The U.S. State Department has designated all three groups as terrorist organizations.

CNN Correspondent Michael Holmes and Producer Talal Abu Rahma contributed to this report.

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