String of violence continues in Middle East
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli couple was ambushed and Jewish settlers in two cities were attacked Friday in a string of violence that continues to rock the Middle East.
Palestinian gunmen ambushed a car in the West Bank carrying an Israeli couple Friday morning, killing the husband and seriously injuring the wife, according to Israeli medical sources.
The shooting attack happened between Nablus and Ramallah near the Palestinian village of El Moayer, Israeli military sources said.
According to the medical sources, the car flipped over after it was hit by gunfire.
In a telephone call to CNN, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Al Aqsa Brigades has carried out numerous terror attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The group has stated its belief that armed struggle is the only way to bring about an independent Palestinian state. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.
In a separate incident Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said Palestinians fired three mortar shells toward the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in Gaza. There was no damage and no injuries.
The IDF said Palestinian gunmen also opened fire at a convoy carrying settlers near the settlement of Netzarim in Gaza.
In Washington, a senior State Department official said the attacks "illustrate the urgent need for a transparent, consolidated Palestinian security service" to take effective action against terrorists. The delay in that type of a crackdown is posing "serious challenges" to implementing the U.S.-backed road map to peace, the official said.
Friday's violence follows an incident late Thursday in which an Israeli helicopter gunship struck a donkey cart in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas militant and wounding three people nearby, according to Palestinian sources and witnesses.
The strike came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon instructed forces to "take all necessary steps" against Hamas. The cart was traveling in a residential neighborhood in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza when it was struck.
A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said the Hamas militant was en route to carry out a mortar attack on a Jewish settlement. "The IDF thwarted a mortar shell attack," he said.
Earlier Thursday, a Qassam rocket was fired from northern Gaza into Israel, landing in an industrial area of Askelon, Israeli authorities said. No one was wounded and there was no damage, they said.
But it was the farthest north a Qassam rocket has ever struck in Israel.
Also Thursday, the Palestinian Authority announced it had frozen the bank accounts of charities run by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Islamic organizations, prompting hundreds of Palestinians to protest in the streets of Gaza City.
Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian internal security chief, said most of the 39 charities that had their assets frozen were administered by Hamas. The Palestinian Authority said it will now administer the funds. (Full story)
Fourth strike on Hamas
Thursday's missile strike marked the fourth targeted attack on Hamas in the past week -- an Israeli campaign that ratcheted up after last week's deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem. Eight members of the group have been killed in the Israeli strikes.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.
Since the declaration of the end to the cease-fire, the Palestinian Authority has been under growing pressure to crack down on Palestinian militant groups.
The United States has been pressing the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its obligations under the so-called road map for Mideast peace, backed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.
The peace plan, which Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to, aims to end the violence and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.
CNN Producers Sausan Ghosheh and Shira Medding in Jerusalem and Correspondent Matthew Chance and Producer Talal Abu Rahma in Gaza City contributed to this report.