December 15, 2005 in Nation/World

Israeli airstrike kills four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip

Ken Ellingwood Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

A Palestinian militant looks out from his mask during a demonstration outside the Fatah Party headquarters in Gaza City on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

JERUSALEM – An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip killed four Palestinians and wounded five others Wednesday as Israel continued targeting militants following a suicide bombing last week and sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza since then.

Israeli military officials said a missile hit a car believed to be carrying Palestinian militants and explosives for a planned attack against the Karni crossing, the main cargo port between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The crossing, southeast of Gaza City, has been hit by militants in the past.

The four slain men were identified by the Popular Resistance Committees as members. The group has claimed responsibility for recent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Later Wednesday, a leader of Islamic Jihad suffered minor injuries when a second Israeli airstrike in the same neighborhood hit a car he was in. The man was identified by Palestinian officials as Hader Habib. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Israeli coastal city of Netanya last week that killed five Israelis and wounded dozens.

The airstrikes came as the dominant Palestinian political movement, Fatah, showed fresh signs of disarray five weeks before parliamentary elections are to be held.

One person was wounded in a shootout after gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades occupied Fatah’s headquarters in Gaza City to protest the way the party’s candidate lists are being drawn up. The militant group is affiliated with the party.

The militants opposed a decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, to name some parliamentary candidates to the party’s roster after primaries were aborted in Gaza amid violence last month. In those incidents, and similar turmoil during primaries in the West Bank, gunmen alleging vote fraud ransacked polling places and set ballot boxes afire.

The tensions reflect a generational divide within Fatah that had emerged even before the death last year of Yasser Arafat, who founded the party in the 1950s. The rift pits younger Palestinians against old guard allies of Arafat who accompanied him from exile in 1994.

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