- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

RAMALLAH, West Bank —Israeli helicopters attacked offices of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday in what the army said was retaliation for recent shooting attacks.
No one was injured. The Palestinians accused Israel of trying to kill Mohammed Mansour, the Fatah leader in Ramallah, who had left the building moments earlier. The Israeli army would not comment on the accusation.
Fatah employees meeting with Mr. Mansour in the eight-story building said they heard helicopters flying overhead before three missiles struck.
"I was still inside when I heard some helicopters flying very close to the building," said one man, who escaped uninjured. "One missile entered the room." He managed to get out of the smoke-filled offices through a bathroom window.
The entire floor belonging to the Fatah movement was seriously damaged, but other offices in the structure apparently were not damaged. One missile that struck did not explode, Palestinian police said, and residents in the neighborhood were evacuated for fear it would.
The Israeli army said the strike was an answer to repeated shooting attacks in the West Bank in recent days, including a roadside ambush Thursday that killed one soldier. Israel repeatedly has accused the Fatah party of involvement in attacks, and many of its gunmen are wanted by Israel.
Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah after the attack, calling for revenge.
"Our response will be faster and more painful than Israelis can imagine," said Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Tanzim militia, which is affiliated with Fatah.
The strike proves that Mr. Arafat should not meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Mr. Barghouti said. Both sides had been trying to work out a meeting that Mr. Peres said would take place next week in the region.
Earlier yesterday, a Palestinian was killed and another seriously injured in an explosion near the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, an area known as a flash point in the more than 11 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
Izzaldine Issa, 25, was killed by a powerful explosion that went off in the yard of a house used by the Tanzim militia, witnesses said. Mr. Issa was a member of Tanzim and served in the Palestinian intelligence services, Tanzim officials said.
Tanzim accused Israel of booby-trapping the premises. The Israeli army said it was not aware of the explosion or of any clashes in the area at the time.
In the fighting, 607 persons have been killed on the Palestinian side and 165 on the Israeli side.
Palestinians expressed skepticism over Mr. Peres' announcement in Italy that he would meet Mr. Arafat next week.
Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said more preparation is needed for such a meeting.


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