APTN
An unidentified man, background, is evacuated by medics to a hospital after a Palestinian rocket hit the southern town of Sderot on Wednesday.
updated 9/29/2004 1:31:56 PM ET 2004-09-29T17:31:56

A Palestinian rocket hit an Israeli town near the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing two children, according to Israeli media. Soon after, witnesses said an Israeli helicopter launched two strikes near a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza, wounding two Palestinians.

The rocket attack on the town of Sderot occurred as Jews prepared to usher in the holiday of Sukkot, the fall harvest celebration and came despite a large Israeli incursion by tanks, troops and armored vehicles into northern Gaza aimed at preventing such attacks. The Israeli operation overnight and into Wednesday killed three Palestinians.

Rescue services said the Palestinian rocket hit a building Wednesday evening, but Israel Radio said it hit a path between buildings. The attack killed two children, including a baby, hospital officials said. Seven other people were wounded, including one seriously, rescue services said.

“Once again we are witness to a brutal terror attack aimed at hurting innocent women and children. Once again such a deliberate attack takes place on the eve of a Jewish holiday,” said Israeli government spokesman Gideon Meir. “No state can tolerate such an attack on its citizens, and it is the government’s obligation to protect its citizens.”

The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its Web site. The rocket was the 30th to hit Israel in the past month and the 14th to hit Sderot, the Israeli army said.

Cycle of retribution
Soon after the attack, an Israeli helicopter fired a rocket at a target near the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza, witnesses said. Two Palestinians were wounded, hospital officials said. Another strike followed soon after.

The Israeli incursion began late Tuesday as Palestinians marked the fourth anniversary of their bloody uprising against Israel.  About 110 Israeli vehicles—including tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers—swarmed throughout a swath of northern Gaza used by militants to fire rockets at Israels, witnesses said.

In Beit Lahiya, troops sealed off roads as bulldozers destroyed three houses and two other buildings, witnesses said. Militants clashed with Israeli troops, who fired shells and machine guns from tanks and helicopters.

Basher Hamouda, 55, who fled with his family, criticized the destruction caused by repeated Israeli raids but also questioned the wisdom of Palestinian rocket attacks.

The militants need “to look around and see what mortar shells and rockets brought to northern Gaza ... nothing but distractions and killing,” he said.

The raid came a day after militants fired three rockets into southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage. Most of the homemade Palestinian “Qassam” rockets landed in open fields.

In southern Gaza, one rocket hit the Ganei Tal settlement Wednesday, slightly injuring a Palestinian laborer, and another landed in a field in the Neve Dekalim settlement, causing no injuries, the army said.

‘Pinpoint raids’
Israeli military sources said they were taking a new approach that would include immediate, pinpoint raids on areas used to launch rockets. Past Israeli incursions have been spread out over wider areas.

The military launched an airstrike Wednesday morning against three militants preparing to fire a rocket from east of the Jebaliya refugee camp, the military said. At least one militant was hit, the army said.

Troops began erecting a tower outside Jebaliya, but the army said it was only a temporary structure.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat condemned the operation.

“At a time when the Israeli government is talking about withdrawal and disengagement from Gaza, it is obvious that what is happening is the preparation for reoccupying Gaza,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has launched a plan to pull Israeli troops and settlers out of Gaza next year.

Overnight, a 22-year-old Hamas militant was killed in a gunfight with Israeli forces near the Jebaliya refugee camp, Palestinians said.

‘Victory or martydom’
Early Wednesday, two other Palestinians, both wearing school uniforms, were shot and killed by Israeli forces near the camp, Palestinians said. They said 10 other Palestinians aged 12 to 21 were wounded by Israeli forces after throwing stones at Israeli jeeps and armored vehicles.

Image: Israeli tanks in Gaza.
Adel Hana  /  AP
Israeli tanks and bulldozers clear an area in Beit Lahiya during an incursion into the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
The Israeli army said it shot at two men trying to plant a bomb near the camp and presumed them dead.

Hospital officials said 25 Palestinians were wounded in the raid, including 13 teenagers and children.

Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide bombings against Israel in its campaign to destroy the Jewish state, said it would not abandon the rocket attacks.

“We will continue with this honorable battle until we achieve either victory or martyrdom,” Nizar Rayan, a local Hamas leader, said in Jebaliya.

Another Palestinian, Mohammed Jaber, 14, was killed after Israeli soldiers shot at students throwing stones at them near the Netzarim settlement in central Gaza, hospital officials said.  Another 11 students were injured, they said.

Seven students were wounded in a similar incident outside the Kfar Darom settlement, the officials said.

Separately, a wanted Palestinian man was killed in the West Bank city of Nablus when he tried to flee Israel troops wanting to arrest him, the army said. Palestinians identified the man as Majdi Halifa, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, two Palestinians were killed when the army fired at a taxi approaching the northern entrance to Jenin, Palestinian witnesses said. The 25-year-old driver and a 50-year-old passenger were killed, and the passenger’s wife was wounded and hospitalized, they said.

The army said the taxi was carrying a wanted militant, and soldiers opened fire after the driver refused to stop. The taxi crashed, killing one person on board, and soldiers shot a second person trying to flee, it said. A woman in the taxi was questioned and released, the army said.

In the Jenin refugee camp, the military blew up the house of Zakariye Zubeydi, the local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, early Wednesday.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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