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Israeli missiles injure 5 in Gaza

Military action follows suicide blasts


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Blasts on two buses in southern Israel kill more than a dozen people.
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- At least five people were injured late Wednesday when an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a Palestinian refugee camp, medical sources and witnesses said.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks were moving toward the Khan Younis camp in the southern Gaza Strip after the incident.

The military action followed by a day two suicide bombings that killed 16 people plus the bombers in almost simultaneous blasts on buses in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

The radical Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks in which at least 94 people were wounded, medical officials said.

The military wing of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has a history of carrying out attacks against Israeli civilians and military. It is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S. State Department.

There were pro-Hamas rallies in Gaza City and in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke with the Defense Ministry, the head of Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces' chief about possible operations against terrorists, the prime minister's office said.

Israeli troops demolished the Hebron home of Ahmed Kawasme, one of the two Hamas suicide bombers who carried out the attacks, on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said.

It is IDF policy to demolish houses belonging to suicide bombers.

In Ramallah, the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei issued a statement condemning the bombing as against Palestinian interests.

"The Palestinian government affirms that such actions are against our national interest and call on them to stop immediately. These actions give Israel the pretext to justify continuing in its assassinations, incursions, attacks on Palestinian civilians, expansion of settlements and construction of the expansion and annexation wall," said the statement.

"We renew our call to the Israeli government to agree to a mutual and immediate cease-fire and to sit and negotiate on final status issues," it said.

Hamas claims retaliation

Hamas said in a statement that the attack was a retaliation for the killings of its leaders.

"This attack comes as a response to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantissi and in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners in the hunger strike," a reference to two Hamas leaders killed by Israel and to Palestinians in Israeli prisons who are now refusing to eat.

Part of the statement, which is referred to as a military communiqué, is addressed to Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

"If you thought that when you murder our leaders we will stop fighting, you are wrong because martyring our leaders will increase our determination on continuing jihad," the statement said.

Another part of the statement addresses the "Zionist people," saying, "your leaders attack our innocent people" and "you choose to be the armor" for them.

In a reference to Jewish immigration to Israel, the statement says, "This is a present to the immigrants who came recently to our land."

The brigades promised to continue fighting until the last Zionist leaves the "holy land."

Tuesday's bus explosions came on the day that Sharon announced a timetable for his plan to disengage -- withdrawing all settlers and soldiers from Gaza and portions of the West Bank.

"The government is determined to continue with the disengagement plan, at the same time will continue to fight terrorism as they do on a daily basis," Gissin said. (Full story)


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