Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israel fires on Hezbollah, Gaza

AIR STRIKES Militants were killed and injured in Gaza and Lebanon as the Labor Party demanded legislation from the Israeli prime minister formalizing the Gaza withdrawal


Israeli helicopter gunships and tanks fired on Hezbollah guerrilla positions in southern Lebanon yesterday, killing one guerrilla, Lebanese officials reported.

A Hezbollah spokesman confirmed the death of the guerrilla.

Witnesses in southern Lebanon said two Israeli helicopters fired two rockets at the guerrilla positions near the border village of Aita Shaab, some 15km southeast of the coastal city of Tyre.

The renewed fighting came amid heightened tension between Israel and Hezbollah along the border in southern Lebanon that followed a Beirut bombing on Monday that killed a veteran Hezbollah commander. Hezbollah blamed Israel for the assassination.

The security officials said an Israeli tank opened fire on a Hezbollah position near Aita el-Shaab, killing a Hezbollah guerrilla.

The guerrillas returned fire at Israeli positions across the border. Israeli helicopter gunships later scrambled into the air, firing missiles at the source of fire, the officials said.

Earlier, Israeli missiles twice hit a Gaza militants' safe house, wounding five, a spokesman for a Palestinian group said, the first Israeli air strikes there since internal turmoil broke out over the weekend.

In a related development, Is-rael's moderate Labor Party on Monday demanded legislation to back up Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza pullout plan as part of its price for shoring up his shaky government.

The two air strikes, one on Monday afternoon and the second after midnight, targeted the same house in the Shati refugee camp next to Gaza City, said witnesses and a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee.

The spokesman, Abu Abir, said the house was used by Abed Quka, the group's leader in northern Gaza. He was wounded in the first attack.

In other violence on Monday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian in a refugee camp next to the West Bank city of Nablus at nightfall. Palestinians said he was throwing rocks at soldiers. The Israeli military said he was holding a rifle.

The air strike came as Palestinian President Yasser Arafat moved to defuse three days of tension and violence over his appointment of a relative, Moussa Arafat, as head of security in Gaza.

On Monday, Arafat reinstated the officer his relative replaced -- Abdel Razek al-Majaide -- but retained Moussa Arafat in a powerful position, satisfying some of his critics but infuriating others.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said on Monday he was intent on resigning but made no move to leave office.

He told reporters that in a phone call to Arafat, he said, ``It is time to reactivate all our security branches based on the correct principles. It is now time to appoint the right man to the right position.''

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erakat said Arafat and other Palestinian leaders would meet in an emergency session yesterday to decide Qureia's fate.

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