The New York Times

April 9, 2003

Israeli Missiles Kill 7, Including a Hamas Leader, in Gaza City


JERUSALEM, April 8 Israeli aircraft fired five missiles into a Gaza City neighborhood tonight, killing at least 7 people, including a leader of Hamas and a 14-year-old bystander, and wounding 47 others, witnesses and Palestinian hospital officials said.

Witnesses described an initial salvo of two missiles fired from a jet fighter and aimed at a Subaru car in the southern neighborhood of Zeitun. They said that minutes later, as bystanders and rescue workers rushed into the street, helicopters swept overhead and fired two more missiles.

The Israeli Army declined to comment.

Hamas vowed to retaliate for the attack, which came as the Bush administration was weighing how to proceed here with a new international peace plan, known as the road map.

The Hamas leader was identified as Said Aldin al-Arabid. Israeli security officials, acknowledging the attack, called Mr. Arabid a top official of Hamas in Gaza and accused him of directing dozens of attacks that killed many Israelis. He was jailed for a time by the governing Palestinian Authority but released at the start of the current uprising more than two years ago.

A bodyguard died with him, along with a member of Hamas who was not active in its violent wing, Palestinian authorities said.

Hundreds of people gathered tonight at Shifa hospital, where women searched screaming through the halls for their children. The wounded included children, women and the elderly.

Abdullal Daloul, 14, said he had just left a nearby mosque when the car was struck. "We ran to the car to collect the body parts," he said. "Then, while we were gathered around the car, they hit us."

The blue shirt of his school uniform was spotted with blood. Doctors hovered over him, checking for wounds.

The airstrike came after a period of relative calm for Israelis. No Israelis have been killed in political violence since the United States began its war in Iraq, an outcome Israel attributes to its army's work. But as Israel pressed its offensive during that period, more than two dozen Palestinians have been killed.

Palestinians call attacks like the one tonight assassinations and provocations to further violence. Israel says that killings of known Palestinian militants are important for its security.

Imail Haniya, a leader of Hamas in Gaza, said, "This is a massacre, which is now extended from Baghdad to Palestine, that's committed by Americans and Zionists." He added, "This will only motivate Hamas and the Palestinians to be more persistent in keeping the jihad."

Israel previously tried to kill Mr. Arabid, 33, with a missile strike in August 2001, Palestinian officials said. His son was killed in that attack, they said.

A month ago, Israel used missiles fired from a helicopter in Gaza to kill a founder of Hamas, Ibrahim al-Makadmah.

North of the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli forces demolished the family home today of a Palestinian gunman who killed 6 Israelis and wounded 26 others in a suicidal shooting attack. That attack, on a banquet hall in the Israeli city of Hadera, was on Jan. 17, 2002.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company | Privacy Policy