- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

JERUSALEM Palestinians in a car near Gaza City yesterday narrowly escaped an Israeli helicopter missile attack on their vehicle, which was blasted into a heap of smoldering metal seconds after they jumped out, witnesses said.
The attack was an apparent attempt to kill Palestinian militants belonging to the Islamic Jihad group, Israeli media reported. The Israeli army would not comment.
During two years of Palestinian-Israeli violence, Israel has killed dozens of people suspected of being militants in what it calls "targeted attacks," claiming that it is preventing terror strikes. Palestinians charge that the practice amounts to assassination of their leaders, and human rights groups call it summary execution without judicial process.
The two passengers in the Mercedes sedan saw the Israeli helicopters overhead and managed to flee the vehicle before it was hit, witnesses said.
The air strike came after two Palestinians were killed Saturday night as Israeli tanks and troops entered the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and demolished three homes. One of the Palestinians, a 70-year-old man unable to leave a home before Israeli bulldozers began toppling it, was buried under the rubble, witnesses said.
An army spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal, said soldiers routinely call on residents to evacuate buildings and troops search the premises before structures are destroyed.
The forces demolished three homes belonging to militants of the Islamic Jihad group who were responsible for attacks that killed 24 Israelis, the army said.
One Palestinian bystander who was watching from his balcony was fatally shot during an intense exchange of gunfire, Palestinian witnesses said. The army said soldiers shot at and hit armed Palestinians.
Security alerts disrupted life in Israel yesterday. Citing warnings of terror attacks, police canceled a soccer game in Jerusalem, then relented and allowed it to be played. Also yesterday, police stopped buses from traveling for several hours on a main road in Israel's north where suicide bombers have blown up several buses in the past. The ban was canceled after the security alert was lifted, Israeli radio reported.
Also yesterday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told a visiting Israeli official that there is a good chance that Egypt will succeed in forging a cease-fire declaration by the mainstream Fatah movement and the Islamic Hamas group.
Mr. Maher told Yossi Katz, a representative of Amram Mitzna, the moderate candidate for prime minister in Israel's Jan. 28 elections, that the chances for a cease-fire declaration by Fatah and Hamas were 75 percent, a Katz aide said. The two groups have held several meetings in Cairo, but no agreement has been reached.
Hamas has been responsible for dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, and a militia linked with Fatah also has claimed responsibility for many attacks.
The meeting yesterday was the first meeting between a Mitzna aide and Egyptian official since Mr. Mitzna was chosen as the new head of the Labor Party on Nov. 19.
Mr. Katz also met with Osama Baz, a senior aide to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The meetings brought charges of Egyptian interference in the Israeli election campaign from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party, but Mr. Katz and the Egyptians rejected them. Mr. Maher said Egypt wants to maintain a good dialogue and help peacemaking efforts, according to Mr. Katz's aide.


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