Photo: AFP
Targeted killing in Gaza City
Photo: AFP
Photo: Reuters
The damaged vehicle
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
Helping the wounded
Photo: Reuters
Air Force pounds Gaza targets
Escalation in the Gaza Strip: Army strikes several targets overnight, IDF officials say Air Force will continue to attack, no one immune; Earlier, Palestinians fire Qassam rockets after army kills four Palestinians en route to attack

(VIDEO) More assassinations on the way? The Air Force struck at a series of Gaza Strip targets early Thursday, with army officials saying operations in the area will continue in an attempt to target terror activists.


A gunship fired missiles at a structure used as a weapons warehouse for the Popular Resistance Committees in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said the strike targeted the home of senior group member Amar Karmut. The man was not hurt, but a family member sustained wounds.


Several minutes later, missiles were fired at a structure used as an Islamic Jihad office in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Earlier, the Air Force attacked rocket launching sites in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Strip.


Wednesday evening, following the assassination of four Popular Resistance committees members said to be en route to carrying out a large-scale attack and the failed targeted killing of a senior Islamic Jihad figure, security officials held a series of consultations regarding continued operations in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.


"The attempt to hit Islamic Jihad activists this evening again relayed the message that no one is immune, and everyone involved in terror could be hurt," an IDF source said.


The army does not view the unsuccessful assassination attempt as a "failure", and views both the failed attempted and the successful strike earlier as one operation.


"We prefer that terrorists are busy hiding from us and being afraid of us than launching rockets or planning attacks," one source said.


Qassam strikes


Hours after the assassination of the four Palestinians, Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets into Israel which landed in an open field in the southern town of Sderot. Overall, five Qassam launchings were identified.


No one was injured and no damages were caused, police said.


IAF strike in Gaza  (Video: Reuters)  


The Popular Resistance Committees military wing, the Salah al-Din Brigades, took responsibility for the Qassam attack.


Speaking to Ynet, group spokesman Abu Abir said the Qassam attack is his group’s initial response for the assassination of four of its members in an IAF strike.


Abir added that his group is no longer committed to a ceasefire with Israel, vowing to carry on the armed struggle against the Jewish State.


Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal told Ynet that residents entered underground bunkers soon after news of the assassination broke, in anticipation of Qassam attacks.


“As of 5 p.m. we went on alert. It was clear to all of us that they would fire Qassams, unfortunately. When the state of Israel decides to wage a real war against terror and stops playing cat and mouse, then Qassam attacks will stop,” he said.


Several hours after the first IAF strike, Palestinian sources reported the IDF had attempted to assassinate Khaled Habib, one of Islamic Jihad's top leaders in Gaza.


According to the sources, a missile was fired at Habib's vehicle, but he escaped unharmed.


"This attempt to harm Islamic Jihad activists tonight once again relayed the message that no one is immune and anyone connected to terror may be harmed," an IDF source said following the failed assassination attempt.


"We'd prefer the terrorists concentrate on hiding and fearing us, rather than launching rockets or planning terror attacks," one source said. "As long as the Palestinian Authority does not effectively fight terror, the IDF will continue and harm terrorists, whether they are on their way to a Karni attack or on their way to fire mortar shells."


4 killed in assassination


Four Palestinians were killed and at least four others sustained wounds after Israel's air force fired missiles at a vehicle traveling in Gaza City’s Sajaya neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.


Defense officials said following the attack that the vehicle was loaded with explosives and that the four passengers killed were on their way to carry out a large-scale terror attack at the Karni crossing. 


The officials added that the car was also loaded with weaponry, which caused the large explosion.


Remnants of the damaged car        (Photo: Reuters)


Fatah's military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said in response to the targeted killings that the group would take harsh action deep within Israeli territory. The group also said the calm would not be renewed and that Israelis "must wait for the next suicide bombings and prepare graves."


The Popular Resistance Committees announced it would continue resisting the renewal of the calm and that "its response would come quickly and be harsh." 


IDF renews targeted killings


Palestinian sources said an IDF gunship fired several missiles at the vehicle carrying five people, apparently members of

the Popular Resistance Committees’ military wing, the Salah al-Din Brigades. Several of those wounded were passersby. Some of those injured sustained serious wounds.


Palestinians said those

killed included Muhammad Joukha, Rashad al-Sam, Hussam Abu-Nada and Hamdan Mhanna.


Mhanna, a 19-year-old Gaza resident worked at the Karni crossing.


Defense officials told Ynet following the strike that Mhanna used his job to his advantage to plan the attack. 


The Palestinian Authority condemned the IAF strike, calling it "a crime aimed at placing additional obstacles for the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to continue the calm."  


Following the recent suicide bombing in Netanya, the IDF has renewed its targeted assassination policy, targeting several members of the Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades in recent days. 


Meanwhile, several Palestinian groups announced they were no longer committed to the intra-Palestinian lull in violence.


Ali Waked, Shmulik Haddad, and Efrat Weiss contributed to the report


First published: 12.14.05, 16:19
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