Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2001

Retaliations escalate in West Bank, Gaza Strip

August 5, 2001


— Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian police headquarters in Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip early today, both sides said.

There were no casualties, the Palestinian police commander said. The Israeli military said the attack, by two helicopters, followed repeated mortar attacks by the Palestinians.

Palestinian security officials said Israeli helicopters fired four missiles at the national security forces headquarters in the town, near the Gaza-Egyptian border.

The Israeli military said the helicopter attack followed the firing of 26 mortar rounds by the Palestinians. The targets were Jewish settlements and Israeli army outposts, the military said.

The commander of Palestinian national security in Rafah, Col. Fawzi Zaqouk, said three missiles hit his office, causing considerable damage but no casualties. He said he and other officers heard the helicopters approaching and left the building.

Asked if he believed he was the target of the raid, Zaqouk told The Associated Press, "All Palestinians are now the target of the Israeli military."

One of the mortar shells wounded two people, a father and son, at the isolated Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, the military said.

The helicopter attack followed a night of heavy exchanges of fire between Palestinians and Israeli forces in several locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, after a prominent West Bank leader narrowly escaped an Israeli attack.

On Saturday, Palestinians said Israeli forces fired two missiles at cars carrying Marwan Barghouti and his bodyguards in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Barghouti, the leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah group in the West Bank and one of the most visible Palestinian leaders in the area, was shaken but unhurt in the attack.

He said Israel was trying to assassinate him. The Israeli military had no official comment, but military sources, demanding anonymity, said the target was not Barghouti, but one of the bodyguards. The sources said he was responsible for several attacks against Israelis, including the shooting death of anti-Arab extremist Binyamin Zeev Kahane and his wife on a West Bank road.

Late Saturday, a senior Palestinian official said Arafat sent urgent letters to President Bush and leaders in Russia, China and the European Union, calling for intervention in the conflict.

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