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Israel hits Palestinian Foreign Ministry building

Abbas says 'regional war is mounting,' calls for global intervention

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli airstrike hit the Palestinian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Gaza City early Thursday, wounding at least 10 people and destroying the fourth and fifth floors of the building, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that Israeli aircraft targeted the Foreign Ministry with a missile.

A Palestinian Foreign Ministry spokesman said administrative and financial offices are housed on the fourth and fifth floors; the office of Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas member, is on the sixth floor.

The attack happened at a time when the building would be mostly empty.

About two hours later, another Israeli missile was fired in central Gaza, killing two armed Palestinian militants, an IDF spokesman said.

Palestinian sources said that 19 people, including a Hamas official, his wife and seven children, were killed Wednesday in the Israeli operation.

The attacks were part of a two-week- old Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian militants in Gaza. The military operation is aimed at recovering a kidnapped Israeli soldier and stopping militants from firing rockets into Israel.

In Lebanon, Israel stepped up its military campaign Thursday, a day after Hezbollah guerrillas abducted two Israeli soldiers in a raid that killed eight other soldiers along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Hezbollah has justified the action, demanding a prisoner exchange for the soldiers' release. (Full story)

Reaction

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Ramallah, said Thursday he feared a "regional war is mounting" in the wake of Israel's military campaigns.

Abbas asked for the international community to intervene and pressure Israel to "lift the siege over Gaza, open the border, release Palestinian prisoners and to stop expansion of settlement."

U.S. President Bush, referring to Israel and Abbas as "the agents of peace" in the region, said Thursday the "peace-loving" world must unite to support them.

"There's a group of terrorists that wants to stop the advance of the peace and those that are peace-loving must work together to help the agents of peace -- Israel, President Abbas and others -- to achieve their objective," Bush said.

Israel: House used as hideout

Referring to the Hamas official, his wife and seven children, who they say were killed Wednesday, Hamas and Palestinian medical sources said the he and his family were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the early morning in Gaza City.

Hamas identified Nabil Abu Salmiya as a midlevel leader who was also a professor at Islamic University.

The Israeli army said it had targeted a house that was used as a hideout by several senior Hamas militants who were responsible for attacks.

Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al Qassam Brigade, denied an Israeli military report that the airstrike injured its leader, Mohammed Deif, who is at the top of Israel's most-wanted list.

The group is threatening revenge on Israeli civilians for the strike, Palestinian security sources said. The military wing has carried out attacks on Israeli civilians in the past. (Watch Hamas militants vow revenge for deadly airstrike -- 2:43)

Palestinian security sources told CNN that an Israeli helicopter struck a police station in Garara in central Gaza about 3 p.m., killing one police officer and wounding three other people.

An hour earlier, an Israeli artillery attack killed two men laying explosives in the ground at a junction called Abu Holi in southern Gaza, Palestinian security sources told CNN.

Also Wednesday, the IDF said it struck a group of armed militants in the area of the former Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. The IDF said four gunmen were killed, but Palestinian security sources said five Palestinians were killed in the 8 p.m. strike.

In addition, Fatah sources said a Palestinian accused of being a collaborator with Israel was killed by Palestinians in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis.

Rocket attacks

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces crossed into central Gaza. Palestinian sources said one member of the Palestinian security forces was killed and another wounded during an exchange of fire in the area.

The military wing of Hamas said it fired 10 Qassam rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, but the Israeli military said none of the missiles caused injuries.

The group said the rockets were fired into an area that includes the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon.

The IDF counted 13 rockets launched from Gaza, but only nine landed in Israel, said an Israeli military spokesman.

Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza have been in a state of siege since June 25, when Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, was abducted in a raid by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

Hamas' military wing is one of three militant groups that claimed responsibility for Shalit's abduction, along with the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam.

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