Hamas activist killed in helicopter gunship attack
GAZA (CNN) -- A Hamas activist was killed and two other Palestinians seriously wounded Thursday when an Israeli helicopter gunship attacked their car in southern Gaza, Palestinian sources told CNN.
Israel said the attack was carried out to prevent a "spectacular" terrorist operation.
The Hamas activist was identified as Bakr Hamdan, who was in the vehicle in the town of Khan Younis when it was struck by two missiles from an Apache helicopter, the sources said. The wounded were identified as Hazem Nashwan and Hazem Nimer, the son of Hamas leader Ahmad Nimer.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack and said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to further derail Mideast peace initiatives.
"Sharon is continuing his aggression against the Palestinian people, and he conducts these crimes in order to provoke a Palestinian response and to undermine American peace efforts in the region," said Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, a spokesman for Arafat.
He said the United States needs to pressure Sharon to end his "assassination policies in order to restore calm to the region."
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed it carried out an operation that killed the Hamas activist, but would not discuss details.
The IDF said Hamdan was preparing "a spectacular operation against an Israeli target."
The attack on the Hamas activist's vehicle comes just two days after Israeli forces raided a house in Nablus and killed four Palestinians. The IDF said the four were Hamas bombmakers and the house was a bomb factory.
Hamas vowed an "all out war" against Israel in retaliation for Thursday's attack
Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahhar said, "This is a terrorist attack by Israel and is part of the continuous Israeli crimes against the Palestinians."
He said there had been a brief period of calm, but now "through Israeli provocation and after their crimes, no one can deny us the right to respond."
"We have to defend ourselves against this aggressive occupation," Zahhar told CNN.
Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic group with a military wing that carries out terror and military attacks against Israelis, briefly joined the cease-fire called by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on December 16, but said it would resume attacks following the arrest of Ahmad Sa'adat, the Leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine by the Palestinian Authority on January 15.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cast doubt on the veracity of the arrest of Sa'adat, who Israel claims planned the assassination of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi last October.
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