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Israeli helicopter attack kills 3

Palestinians gather around a blown up car that was hit by an Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza City Saturday.
Palestinians gather around a blown up car hit by the Israeli helicopter strike.

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli military helicopter fired three missiles at a car in Gaza City on Saturday, killing three people, Palestinian security sources said.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the vehicle carried "senior members of the Islamic Jihad military wing who were planning murderous attacks against civilian and military targets."

The attack wounded 16 others, including a boy, Palestinian medical sources said.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The group has carried out past terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qorei denounced Saturday's attack as a "crime."

"This is to destroy the possibility of any kind of cease-fire," he said, speaking in Ramallah, West Bank. "They are pushing the situation to more escalation"

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire is one of the initial steps for the so-called "road map" to Mideast peace backed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. The plan calls for steps by both sides aimed at ending the conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said despite Sharon's pledge to withdraw from Gaza -- another step included in the road map -- the army would continue to strike those planning attacks against Israelis.

"Today's action was intended to try and stop this new wave of suicide and homicide bombings," Gissin said shortly after the missile strike.

On February 22, eight people and a Palestinian suicide bomber were killed in a terrorist attack on a crowded Jerusalem bus during rush hour. (Full story)

Gissin said Saturday's helicopter attack "sends a very clear signal. There will be no disengagement when we are fighting these kinds of terrorist actions."

The attack killed Mahmoud Juda, a leader in the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, and two other members of the Islamic Jihad -- Amin Al-Dawduah and Ayman Al-Dawduah -- Palestinian security sources said.

Three coffins, draped in the black and gold flags of the Islamic Jihad, were carried through the streets of Gaza City on Sunday.

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