Islamic Jihad leader killed in car blast

Relatives of senior Islamic Jihad commander react in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza
Relatives of senior Islamic Jihad commander Khaled Dahdouh react Wednesday at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital to news of his death.Mohammed Salem / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

An explosion in a car in Gaza City on Wednesday killed Islamic Jihad’s top military commander in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian police said.

Khaled Dahdouh, 45, was targeted in the attack, Palestinian police said. The Israeli military, which frequently carries out pinpointed attacks against militants in Gaza, said it was not involved.

Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for the death of Dahdouh, who they said had survived nine Israeli attempts on his life.

Islamic Jihad — unlike the militant Hamas group that recently swept Palestinian elections — has disregarded an informal truce with Israel and carried out six suicide bombings against Israelis in the past year. Over that time, Islamic Jihad militants have been the focus of Israeli attacks and arrest raids.

Violence on Wednesday also spilled into the West Bank, where Palestinian militants shot and killed a Jewish settler traveling on a road near the settlement of Tapuah, military officials said.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a group affiliated with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, took responsibility for the shooting. Israeli troops were searching for two gunmen who fled the scene, Israel Radio said.

Powerful blast
Dahdouh’s car was incinerated as it traveled over a speed bump. Hospital officials said two other people were wounded.

The explosion took place on a busy street in the residential area between Islamic University and the Finance Ministry compound in Gaza City. It knocked out electricity in the area and damaged several cars parked nearby.

Palestinian civil emergency workers try to extinguish a burning car after an explosion in Gaza March 1, 2006. A senior Islamic Jihad commander was killed in a car explosion in Gaza on Wednesday that witnesses said was caused by an Israeli air strike. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. REUTERS/Suhaib SalemSuhaib Salem / X90014

Samira Daoud, 32, was standing on the balcony waiting for her children’s school bus to arrive when the blast occurred.

“The explosion shattered all the windows of my apartment and some of the flying shrapnel from the windows hit me in the face,” Daoud said, her face splattered with blood. “I ran to the street to see if my children were there, and I saw a man lying outside of the car with a big white beard, and he was bleeding.”

Israel’s last targeted killing was in early February when it launched airstrikes that killed two Islamic Jihad rocketmakers.

Islamic Jihad said Dahdouh survived that attack and eight other Israeli assassination attempts against him.

Dahdouh was behind the development and manufacture of a new generation of longer-range homemade rockets that militants have fired recently at southern Israel, Islamic Jihad said. He also planned and participated in several attacks against Israeli targets in Gaza and the West Bank.

A brother and cousin died in a targeted killing almost a year ago to the day, on Feb. 28, 2005.

Jihad blames Israel
Islamic Jihad vowed retaliation. “The Zionists will swallow the same bitter drink that each Palestinian family has drunk from before,” said Abu Dajana, a spokesman for the militant wing, referring to Israeli military attacks on Palestinians.

The group has rejected Hamas’ offer to join a Palestinian government that it is expected to form this month. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in the past, has largely stuck to the year-old truce, though it has not renounced its violent campaign against Israel.

In other Gaza violence, three masked gunmen kidnapped the director-general of the Palestinian Lands Authority in Gaza, witnesses said. The motive for the kidnapping was not immediately known.

Masked militants often kidnap Palestinian and foreign officials in Gaza, sometimes holding them for several days before releasing them unharmed.

Hamas lawmaker arrested
In other news, Israeli police arrested a prominent Hamas lawmaker in Jerusalem on suspicion of conducting illegal political activity, police said.

The lawmaker, Mohammed Abu Teir, was arrested with two other Hamas activists for conducting political activity at a hospital in east Jerusalem in violation of Israeli law, police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

Abu Teir was elected in January to the Palestinian parliament. Although Israel did not block him from running, it prohibited all Hamas campaign activity in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem.