Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Islamic groups join up in Gaza assault

COLLUSION An attack yesterday in which three Israeli soldiers were killed followed a pledge by Islamic Jihad and Hamas to work together against Israeli occupation

REUTERS , GAZA

A Palestinian youth covers his face with Hamas headbands during the funeral of Ayoub Al Malek in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Malek died of wounds sustained in an Israeli airstrike on the camp on Monday night. The headband reads in Arabic: ``No God but God and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah, Islamic resistance movement of Hamas.''

PHOTO: AP

A gunman killed three Israeli soldiers, including two women, in a joint attack on a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip yesterday by the two main Palestinian Islamic militant groups.

The attack by Islamic Jihad and Hamas followed a meeting in Syria at which they pledged tighter cooperation in the three-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

The Israeli army said a militant armed with an assault rifle and grenades infiltrated the heavily guarded Netzarim settlement before dawn and opened fire before soldiers shot him dead.

It said two of the dead were women and two other soldiers were wounded, including a woman who was seriously hurt. Another militant also appeared to have taken part, but did not enter the settlement and escaped into the darkness.

"At the moment it is a night of very thick fog, and you can't see even one metre ahead. The terrorists exploit a night like this for very intense activity," Major General Dan Harel told reporters at the scene.

The attack was the latest blow to the stalled US-backed "road map" peace plan after Israel killed 12 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, in air raids on Monday and Palestinian gunmen killed three Israeli soldiers in an ambush on Sunday.

Hamas said the man killed yesterday was one its members and that he carried out the attack with a member of Islamic Jihad, the other main movement behind attacks on Israelis.

The attack followed a meeting of the two groups' leaders in Syria this week at which they decided to strengthen cooperation in battling "Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people."

"Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders had a broad discussion on developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict and ways to confront Israeli military escalation against Palestinian civilians by all means available," said Adnan Asfour, a Hamas political leader.

Hamas identified the dead attacker as Samir Fouda, a resident of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza.

Hours before the attack at Netzarim, in central Gaza, a Palestinian gunman shot at an Israeli army convoy in Gaza, lightly wounding two people. Soldiers then killed the attacker.

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