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Israeli missile strike kills bystander

Palestinian youths surround a car destroyed in Tuesday's attack in Gaza.
Palestinian youths surround a car destroyed in Tuesday's attack in Gaza.

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CNN's Michael Holmes reports on an Israeli missile strike near Gaza City.
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli helicopters fired at least three missiles Tuesday at a car near a refugee camp north of Gaza City, killing an elderly man and wounding 23 bystanders, Palestinian hospital sources said.

The apparent target of the attack, Hamas militant Khalid Massoud, ran from the car before it was hit near the entrance of the Jabaliya refugee camp, sources said. Another Hamas militant, Wael Ikilan, escaped with him, sources said.

Both men are members of the military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al Qassam. Israel had attempted to kill Massoud before.

Israeli security sources accused Massoud of playing a primary role in the manufacture of Qassam rockets. They said 10 Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel in the past five days.

It was Israel's third attack targeting individual militants since the August 19 terror bombing of a bus in Jerusalem that killed at least 21 people and for which Izzedine al Qassam and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

Two days later, Israeli forces killed senior Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab, and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades called off their self-declared cease-fire with Israel.

The bus bombing itself came five days after Israeli forces killed an Islamic Jihad commander, Muhammad Sadr, who Israel said had participated in past attacks on Israelis and was planning new ones.

The violence has posed a threat to the U.S.-backed road map aimed at ending the conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Sources said a meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was to have held with members of the Palestinian factions did not take place.

According to the sources, Abbas was to meet with a national committee to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories and ways to reinstate the cease-fire.

Before Tuesday's attack, Hamas representatives said they would take part in the meeting, but a spokesman for the militant group said that while national dialogue is needed, Hamas saw no way to bring back the cease-fire.

Over the weekend, Israel killed four other members of Hamas in a separate attack. The dead were identified as Walid el Hams, Ahmed Eshtwi, Ahmed Abu Halala, and Muhammad Abu Lubda.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, are designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

Hospital sources said Massoud was "moderately wounded" and after being treated was taken away by other Hamas members.

Two of the wounded were in critical condition and three others were in serious condition, the sources said. Six of the wounded were children, ranging in age from 9 to 14, hospital sources said.

Emergency crews in Gaza Tuesday
Emergency crews in Gaza Tuesday

Witnesses said an elderly man and his donkey were killed. A second car also was damaged.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned the attack and accused Israel of trying to undercut the Palestinian Authority.

"Today's attack is aimed at undermining the Palestinian Authority, so that any security measures adopted by the PA would be viewed as collaborating with the occupier," Erakat said.

"We call upon Israel to condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians, just as the PA condemns the killing of Israeli civilians."

Gideon Meir, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, said Israel does not target civilians and that it regrets "every loss of innocent life."

"We're only after the terrorists. Unfortunately, the terrorist organizations operate and hide among the civilian population," he said.

He added, "If the Palestinian Authority would have done what it was expected to do, according to the road map, it would have been unnecessary for Israel to go after the terrorists and perpetrators."

"The Israel Defense Forces will continue to act against Hamas and other terrorist targets, and we expect the Palestinian Authority to take substantive action against the terror infrastructure," one Israeli security source said.

Israel expects possible attack

Earlier Tuesday, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said intelligence reports indicated an impending attack against an Israeli target. An overnight curfew was imposed by Israeli forces on the West Bank city of Jenin, the spokesman said.

Also Tuesday, Israeli troops entered a hospital in Nablus in the West Bank and arrested two Palestinian militants, the IDF said. The militants had been wounded last week in a gunbattle with Israeli forces, according to the IDF.

The gunmen were members of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and were transferred to a hospital in Israel, according to the IDF.

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