Israel Pounds Palestinian Sites in Reprisal for Ambush
The strikes, launched from helicopters, warships, warplanes and tanks, came in response to a deadly Palestinian attack on an Israeli military outpost.
According to officials, four Palestinians died in a missile attack on Arafat’s Gaza compound; seven in shelling of two Palestinian police checkpoints; three in a firefight near Nablus; and one in an airstrike on a Palestinian police post in Ramallah. Twelve of those killed were policemen.
Witnesses and security officials told reporters Israeli helicopters fired missiles at Palestinian security bases in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Jenin later Wednesday. Three people were reported injured in the attacks.
The Israeli strikes followed a Palestinian militant attack on an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday that killed six soldiers.
Three gunmen, allegedly linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, killed three guards before shooting three others in a nearby sleeping quarters. All three assailants escaped, officials said.
Since Monday, 10 Israelis and 30 Palestinians, including two suicide bombers, have died in escalating tit-for-tat violence.
Emerging from his embattled West Bank headquarters where he has been kept under virtual house arrest since December, Arafat told reporters he did not fear the Israeli attacks and urged President Bush to step in and end the conflict.
“The tanks and the missiles and the planes do not terrify us,” Arafat said. “The Israelis insist on avoiding the peace process, but we will raise the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem.”
After meeting with his security advisers Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would take a “different course of action” in dealing with the Palestinians.
Sharon aide Raanan Gissin, told reporters that meant Israeli troops would switch from larger operations to quick, smaller-scale strikes aiming to “tip the terrorists off-balance.”
Gissin said the military would strengthen its blockade of Arafat’s compound near Ramallah, preventing the Palestinian leader from meeting with foreign dignitaries until he “stops the terrorist activities.”