Limor Edri  /  AP
Rescue workers carry a wounded victim from the scene of a double suicide bombing in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod on Sunday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 3/14/2004 7:38:27 PM ET 2004-03-15T00:38:27

Israeli attack helicopters fired at least 10 missiles at a metal foundry and other targets around Gaza City early on Monday, Palestinian witnesses said. It was likely retaliation for a deadly bombing at an Israeli seaport the day before.

It was not known what other targets were hit in Gaza, and there were no immediate reports of casualties in the early morning air strikes. Palestinian ambulances raced to a site in the northern part of the city, in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood, residents said.

Much of northern Gaza was plunged into darkness as the missiles knocked out electricity supplies.

The Israeli military, which has used its helicopter fleet to track and kill scores of militants waging a more than three-year-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, did not immediately comment.

Attack in Ashdod
The blast came after two Palestinian suicide attackers exploded bombs in the closely guarded Israeli seaport of Ashdod on Sunday, killing at least 11 Israelis and wounding 18, police said.

Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, militants with links to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

It was the first suicide attack on an Israeli seaport in more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, underscoring Israel’s vulnerability despite stringent security measures.

Soon after the bombing, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon canceled a planned summit with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

Near Gaza border
Ashdod is on the Mediterranean coast in the southern part of Israel, not far from the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by a security barrier.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Yosef Paritzky said the assailants “found a weak point and exploited it.”

Searching for peace

“A port, by nature, is a very busy place,” he said. “There are many people coming and going. It is impossible to seal the entire country hermetically.”

The explosions went off just before 5 p.m. in two separate areas of the port. Port worker Sami Pinto said that he saw smoke from the explosion near the fence of the port facility and in a workshop inside.

“One of our workers who was lightly wounded told me that the terrorist came in and asked for water, and the moment he showed him where there was a tap, he blew up,” Pinto told Israel Army Radio.

Eleven were killed in addition to the bombers, whose bodies were found near the scene of the blasts, authorities said.

Police said two bodies near the scene were the remains of the bombers. Rescue services spokesman Yerucham Mendola said “some of the victims were thrown a long distance” by the blasts.

Unusual choice of target
The choice of target was unusual. In 111 previous suicide bombings, Palestinian attackers often chose buses, cafes and shopping malls, killing more than 450 people.

No Palestinian bombers have managed to leave the Gaza Strip to attack Israel. Two British citizens used their foreign passports to exit Gaza with explosives, and one bombed a night spot in Tel Aviv last year. The other was found dead later.

Israel is building a barrier in the West Bank said to be intended to stop suicide bombers and other attackers, but Palestinians object because the planned route cuts deep into their territory.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Suicide blasts in Israel

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