IAF gunships strike Gaza after 5 troops die in tunnel blast
A day after five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed in a joint Hamas-Fatah attack in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Monday approved a series of operational incursions to combat the terrorism caused by the tunnel system in Gaza, Israel Radio reported.
The measure was apparently decided during a morning meeting with security heads at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
The five members of the IDF Bedouin reconnaissance battalion were killed and six others were wounded when a booby-trapped tunnel blew up under an army outpost near the southern Gaza town of Rafah.
In an apparent initial response to the bombing, Israel Air Force helicopter gunships fired around six missiles at targets in Gaza City early Monday, hours after the Rafah attack.
In the pre-dawn hours, loud explosions from IAF missiles woke residents from their sleep. Gaza City was plunged into darkness when one of the missiles hit a generator, cutting off electricity.
One of the missiles hit a metal foundry the army says is used by militants to produce munitions. There were no apparent casualties in the strike.
Speaking to journalists Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he did not see any change in the Palestinian Authority's efforts to fight terrorism.
Progress in peace efforts, Sharon said, "depends on the Palestinians, if they will act against terror."
"By now, we don't see any change," he said, speaking in English.
"Myself and my government would like to move forward toward peace, but it depends on one thing, that it should be quiet and I'm really sorry to say that by now we don't see any changes," he added.
The identities of the five soldiers killed are Sergeant Sayid Jaja, 19, from Ararah; Sergeant Araf al-Zabarga, 20, from Kseifeh; Tarek al-Zidaina, 20, from Rahat; Hussein Abu Lile, 23, from Ein-Mahl.
Private Adham Samir Shehada, 19 from Tur'an, was to be laid to rest in his village at 2.30 P.M. on Monday.
Of the six injured, who were all hospitalized in the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, one was seriously wounded, and doctors said Monday his life was still in danger.
Another four were moderately wounded and one lightly wounded. The soldiers killed one armed Palestinian who participated in the assault.
Hamas and a Fatah faction, the Fatah Hawks, claimed joint responsibility for the attack, the most lethal of its kind since the start of the conflict.
Government and defense sources said Israel would definitely respond to the attack, but in a "measured" fashion, which would not involve a large-scale ground operation.
On one hand, they explained, Israel wants to be "very careful" in the run-up to January's elections in the Palestinian Authority and the disengagement from Gaza, but on the other, it does not want to return to a policy of restraint in the face of attacks.
Hamas man killed in West BankIn the West Bank, a wanted Hamas militant was killed and three IDF soldiers were injured, none of them seriously, in an overnight gun battle in Nablus, Israel Radio reported Monday.
The Hamas man was identified as Ihsam Shuhana, whom the radio said was linked to a number of suicide bombings.
The clash occurred in a house in the hillside Jabal Shimali neighborhood of the flashpoint city, when a detachment of soldiers surrounded a house where the militant was holed up, the radio said.
The soldiers called on the residents to leave the building. After they did so, the troops then shot at the structure and entered it to search for Shuhana, who opened fire at them.
Shuhana was killed in the ensuing firefight, and three soldiers wounded, one moderately the others lightly.