[News] Palestinians blow up army outpost

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Mon Jun 28 08:39:21 EDT 2004




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Palestinians blow up army outpost in carefully orchestrated attack

2004/6/28
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, AP


_ Israeli helicopters fired 10 missiles at two metal workshops in Gaza City 
early Monday, just hours after Palestinian militants blew up an Israeli 
army outpost in the heart of the Gaza Strip.

In the carefully orchestrated attack on the outpost, militants dug a 
350-meter (1,000-foot) tunnel under concrete fortifications, and detonated 
what they said were hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of explosives. The blast 
brought down a building and wounded at least five Israeli soldiers, 
including one who was in critical condition after being trapped in the 
outpost for more than an hour.

Ambulances came under Palestinian fire as they evacuated the wounded. 
Israeli troops fired from machine guns and tanks, killing a Palestinian 
police officer and a 15-year-old boy in a nearby village, medics said.

Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility, saying they 
were avenging leaders and key activists killed by Israeli in recent months, 
including seven shot dead in the West Bank over the weekend.

The outpost attack came as Egypt was trying to broker a cease-fire between 
Israel and the militants ahead of a planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. 
It seemed unlikely the blast would disrupt a pullback. Israeli Prime 
Minister Ariel Sharon has said he's determined to go ahead with a plan he 
believes is crucial for Israel's security.

However, more violence is expected in the time leading up to the pullout, 
to be completed by the end of 2005. The militants want to step up attacks 
so they can portray the withdrawal as a hasty retreat by Israel. The 
military, in turn, hopes to strike hard at the armed groups to prevent any 
gloating and weaken their ability to attack Israel after a pullback.

The explosion went off shortly before 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) Sunday, at an army 
outpost at the Gush Katif junction, near Gaza's largest bloc of Israeli 
settlements. The outpost is protected by reinforced concrete.

Militants said they dug a 350-meter (1,000-foot) tunnel to reach the 
outpost. In a videotaped claim of responsibility, Al Aqsa said it used 
1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of explosives, though in an earlier phone 
call to The Associated Press, the group said 150 kilograms (330 pounds) 
were used.

"This is a message to Sharon that ... our fighters will continue the holy 
struggle until we uproot them (Israelis) from our land," said an Al Aqsa 
spokesman, who only gave his name as Abu Mohammed.

Hamas said the explosion came as revenge for Israel's assassination of the 
group's founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in March, and of his successor, Abdel 
Aziz Rantisi, a month later.

In Gaza City, about 2,000 people rushed into the streets to celebrate, 
among them about 100 armed men.

Early Monday, Israeli helicopters fired 10 missiles at two metal workshops 
in Gaza City, setting off fires and causing damage, but no major injuries. 
The army said the workshops were used by Hamas and other militants to make 
weapons, including homemade rockets.

The Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera reported that five Israeli 
soldiers were killed in the outpost attack. Israel's military censor does 
not permit reporting on the deaths of soldiers until families have been 
notified. However, security officials suggested Al Jazeera's figure was too 
high.

The army said five soldiers were wounded, including one critically.

Brig. Gen. Shmuel Zakai, an Israeli army commander in Gaza, noted that it 
must have taken weeks to dig the tunnel. He said the base was targeted in 
the past, including by a car bomb.

Palestinian militants have used tunnels in the past, once to attack an 
Israeli outpost in southern Gaza and also to smuggle weapons from Egypt to 
Gaza.

Earlier Sunday, in the West Bank, militants threatened revenge for seven 
armed men killed by Israel on Saturday in the city of Nablus. Among the 
dead was Nayef Abu Sharkh, 45, the West Bank's top fugitive and an Al Aqsa 
founder.

END


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