Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Israeli missiles hit militant's home

REUTERS , GAZA

Palestinians hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes in the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandia on the outskirts of Jerusalem yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

An Israeli helicopter fired missiles at the home of a suspected militant in Gaza yesterday, wounding at least four people and adding to tension in the territory at the heart of a Palestinian leadership crisis.

After more than a week of unprecedented Palestinian turmoil, mediators tried to mend fences between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, who resigned amid the chaos and calls for reforms to a jumble of security forces.

A helicopter fired at least two missiles into a building in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood that residents said was the home of a militant from the Islamic Hamas group, which has sworn to destroy the Jewish state.

The apparent target, Abu Malik Jindiah, escaped unhurt. But four bystanders were wounded, medics said. The explosions tore apart the building and sent up a column of thick, black smoke.

The Israeli army made no immediate comment, but an Israeli security source said: "They were looking for Hamas activists."

In addition to the regular Israeli raids, Gaza has been touched by unprecedented internal unrest over the past week that has stirred fears of a Palestinian civil war.

A power struggle, triggered by an Israeli plan to abandon occupied Gaza next year, pits Arafat's old guard against younger members of his Fatah movement demanding the removal of officials seen as corrupt and change in the security forces.

Qurie tendered his resignation over the crisis and though Arafat refused to accept it, the moderate premier has made it clear that he will not withdraw it unless the wily former guerrilla leader makes real changes.

An Arafat aide said that a mediation team had been set up to negotiate between Arafat and Qurie and differences could be resolved at a Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Arafat, who has long resisted calls for reforms that might cost him influence, said on Saturday that he would accept any government changes proposed by Qurie. He also made two new senior security appointments.

Just 5km from Arafat's battered West Bank compound, Israeli troops stormed a Palestinian refugee camp.

Witnesses said they opened fire towards hundreds of youths who pelted them with stones.

Witnesses said the incursion followed a report that an Israeli civilian strayed into Qalandia camp and had come under attack by residents.

There was no immediate word of casualties.

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