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Israel destroys militants' homes in West Bank

Hamas warns it will attack Israeli houses

Relatives cry during a funeral held for a victim of Tuesday's suicide bombing near Tel Aviv, Israel.
Relatives cry during a funeral held for a victim of Tuesday's suicide bombing near Tel Aviv, Israel.

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A father and daughter die in a suicide bombing. CNN's Matthew Chance reports.
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Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was seriously injured and his son and bodyguard killed when Israel bombed his home.
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces launched an incursion early Thursday near the West Bank city of Ramallah, blowing up two houses, a Palestinian security source and a witness told CNN.

The operation happened in Bitunya, southwest of Ramallah, where Israeli troops blew up the house of Ahmud Imad, a local leader of the Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas, the source and witness said.

The troops also exploded a house belonging to the family of Mohammed Abu Sabaj, a member of the Fatah movement who is in jail, the source and witness said. Fatah is the mainstream faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is led by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

On Wednesday, Hamas warned it will begin targeting Israeli houses in response to an Israeli air force attack on the house of a senior Hamas leader. The Israeli move came a day after two Hamas suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis.

The two-story house of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was destroyed in the F-16 bombing strike in Gaza City. Zahar was wounded; his 20-year-old son and a bodyguard were killed.

The Israeli attack wounded at least 20 others -- five critically, according to a hospital official. Sources said Zahar's wife and daughter are in intensive care.

Within hours, Hamas issued the warning that it will widen its tactics against the Jewish state and strike Israeli houses and apartments in the same manner that Israel has hit Palestinian homes. In the past, Hamas has targeted buses and conducted ambushes of vehicles.

In a leaflet, Izzedine al Qassam, Hamas' military wing, said that "the targeting of civilian houses is a violation of all red lines. Therefore, the Zionist enemy will have to shoulder responsibility for the targeting by us of houses and Zionist buildings everywhere in occupied Palestine."

Also on Wednesday, Israeli tanks entered the Balata refugee camp and opened fire, killing two Palestinian teenagers, Palestinian sources said. The Israel army said it is checking the report.

The Palestinian sources said an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old were killed and two others were hurt. The camp is near Nablus in the West Bank.

'Crisis group government'

Ahmed Qorei, prime minister designate for the Palestinian Authority, will present for approval a temporary Cabinet when he goes before the Palestinian Legislative Council on Saturdayl, according to a Cabinet member.

After emerging from a meeting Thursday, Palestinian Cabinet member Yasser Abed Rabbo described the proposed government as a "crisis group government."

The government would be temporary -- in power for only a month or so -- and would be made up of six or eight ministers, less than half the usual 20, Rabbo said.

Saying he will take the risk to "face this crisis," Qorei accepted the prime minister nomination Wednesday and vowed he would work to bring an end to the escalating violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. (Qorei profile)

Qorei was nominated after Mahmoud Abbas resigned, citing "Israel's unwillingness to implement its 'road map' commitments," a lack of sufficient support from the United States and the international community, and opposition from the Palestinian Authority.

The so-called road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- aims to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Two suicide bombings in one day

Israeli security sources said they arrested a Hamas operative Wednesday in Ramallah in connection with Tuesday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv. Palestinian sources said the Israeli army also arrested another Hamas member.

Hamas said it carried out the bombings in retaliation for what it said were Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

The bombings killed 15 Israelis and wounded at least 65 others. The two suicide bombers also died.

The first attack Tuesday occurred at a bus stop near an Israeli army base east of Tel Aviv, when soldiers and employees from the hospital were gathering to head home at the end of their workday. Eight Israelis were killed, and at least 15 were wounded, Israeli police said.

The second attack came about five hours later at the Cafe Hillel in the trendy German colony area of Jerusalem.

Seven people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near sidewalk tables after the cafe's guard turned the bomber away from the front door. At least 50 people were injured, ambulance service officials said.

The two attacks were the first suicide bombings since an August 19 bus bomb in Jerusalem killed 21 people and the bomber.

CNN correspondents Chris Burns and Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.


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