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Tension mounts in Gaza after Israeli attacks


Agence France Presse
25 October 2005

GAZA CITY - Tensions mounted in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday
after Israel launched air and artillery strikes following
Palestinian rocket attacks to avenge the killing of a militant.

As the Israeli army vowed to use all means to protect its
citizens, US President George W. Bush insisted Washington was
`fully committed` to the largely sunk roadmap peace plan drafted
by the international community.

Israel`s killing of a top West Bank militant Sunday, revenge
rocket attacks from Gaza and subsequent Israeli strikes have added
up to the worst violence since hardline groups agreed to stop
Gaza-based attacks on Israel last month.

With most of Israel grinding to a halt to mark the Jewish
religious holiday of Sukhot, the army vowed to use all means
possible to protect its citizens.

`The Israeli army will react with determination to put an end to
attacks and will use all means in order to prevent Israeli
citizens from coming to harm,` a spokeswoman told AFP.

Late Monday, Israeli artillery shelled open fields in northern
Gaza before aircraft bombed neighbouring land that the army said
was a rocket launch site.

Aircraft then fired a missile into a building belonging to
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas`s Fatah party in the northern town
of Beit Hanoun and another office in Rafah, in the south, used by
radical group Islamic Jihad.

Five people, including two women and a baby, were wounded in the
Rafah attack, Palestinian interior ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu
Khossa said, condemning what he called `Israel`s escalating
aggression` in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli jets broke the sound barrier, unleashing deafening booms
over Gaza City four times since late Monday, an AFP correspondent
said.

The military said aircraft had bombed a Beit Hanoun building of
the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as well as a Jihad
building in Rafah.

`The shelling targeted the uninhabited area from where the rockets
were fired,` a military source told AFP.

The flareup marked the first Gaza-based strikes on Israel since
militants announced on September 27 that they would stop attacks
following an earlier cycle of unrest after Israel`s historic
pullout from the territory last month.

Bush, who had said last week when Abbas visited Washington that he
was not certain a Palestinian state would materialise before he
leaves office in 2009, used an interview to be more optimistic.

`The United States is fully committed to the roadmap, we`re fully
committed to helping going forward, and we`re fully committed to
practical things on the ground,` he told the Dubai-based Al
Arabiya television on Monday.

`Look, I said I would like this to happen before I end being
president. And I would. And we are going to push,` he said when
asked about his statement during Abbas`s visit.

A leader of Islamic Jihad, whose armed wing`s West Bank commander
was killed by Israeli troops on Sunday, said the group had fired
25 makeshift projectiles in an operation to avenge his
assassination.

Louai Saadi was shot dead along with another Jihad activist Majed
al-Ashkar after troops surrounded their hideout in the town of
Tulkarem.

The Jihad source told AFP the group stood by an informal truce, or
`cooling down` in attacks on Israel, in force since January, but
stressed that `any Israeli violation of this quiet will be
answered by Islamic Jihad`.

In a statement sent to AFP, Jihad`s military wing had warned it no
longer felt bound by the so-called quiet.

The Israeli commander of the Tulkarem operation, Colonel Aaron
Haliva, said Saadi had been directly responsible for killing 12
Israeli citizens, including five who were killed in a suicide
attack at a Tel Aviv disco in February.
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