Israeli helicopter attack in Gaza
RAFAH, Gaza (CNN) -- Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a Palestinian security compound in Gaza early Saturday, Israel Defense Forces said.
Two helicopters targeted the Palestinian military intelligence headquarters, a police station, and a building housing Force 17 -- the elite guard of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who is facing increasing Israeli and international pressure to crack down on militant groups blamed for terror attacks.
The helicopter attacks, which took place around 1:15 a.m. (6:15 p.m. EST Friday) came after Israeli demands went unheeded that Palestinians halt the mortar fire on the settlement of Gush Katif in southern Gaza, the IDF said. The organizations that were attacked were directly and indirectly responsible for the mortar shells, the IDF said.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said no one was injured in the attack.
Also Saturday, rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Hebron. Seven Palestinian demonstrators were injured by tear gas, the Red Crescent said.
The military and political clashes have intensified in the last week after suicide bombings claimed by Palestinian militant groups killed 25 Israelis last weekend. They prompted the Israeli cabinet to label the Palestinian Authority a "terrorist supporting entity" and sanction retaliatory strikes on the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli officials have given Arafat a list of 36 people they believe responsible for terror attacks, and have urged him to arrest them as soon as possible.
U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni is also outlining steps the United States wants the Palestinian Authority to take to curb terrorism. Zinni was expected to deliver in the next two days a list of 19 actions aimed at dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. The measures go beyond arrests and include a crackdown on weapons and weapon manufacturing sites.
Friday, the IDF said its troops killed two Palestinians after intercepting them on the way to carry out an attack near the village of Adiq on the West Bank.
An IDF spokesman said troops were patrolling in an area under Israeli security control when they encountered "militants, one armed and the second masked, on their way to carry out an attack on a road near the village. Soldiers shot and killed them.
In an interview with Newsweek released Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his "one ambition" is to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
"I have seen the wars, the battles, the agony," Sharon said. "I would like to reach an agreement. I am ready to dedicate several years to that."
Sharon said no decision has been made to try to topple the Palestinian Authority. Any peace deal with Arafat, whom Sharon called a "real terrorist," will be difficult, he said.
In light of the continuing violence, the U.S. State Department is warning U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Americans already in Israel are being warned to "exercise extreme caution" and avoid public locations like restaurants, shopping areas and public buses.
Israel Defense Forces
Palestine Red Cresent Society
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