- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) Israel sent warplanes and tanks against Palestinian targets yesterday, killing the wife and three children of a Hamas militant in what the military said was a mistake. In all, 16 Palestinians died in retaliatory raids.
The multiple strikes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip followed a Cabinet decision Sunday to intensify military action after Israel was left reeling from Palestinian bombing and shooting attacks that killed 22 Israelis over the weekend.
After nightfall, Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters compound in Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said. Four Palestinians passing by the compound were wounded, doctors said. The building had been evacuated for days in expectation of an Israeli attack.
Witnesses said the warplanes set two security buildings on fire. Palestinian security official Ahmed Abdel Rahman condemned the attack, calling it "dangerous escalation."
The Israeli military said the attacks were a "response to murderous attacks of the past few days."
"We are in a war over our home and the war is horrible," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament, vowing Israel will not succumb to what he has described as a relentless campaign of Palestinian terror.
"I am sure in the end that we will win and peace will come to this home," he said.
Mr. Sharon said the Palestinians must absorb punishment to learn that terrorism does not pay.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell praised a proposal by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to host a summit meeting between Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat. Mr. Mubarak, who is in Washington, said he hoped such a meeting might "change the atmosphere."
It's an interesting idea," said Mr. Powell. But he said a decision ultimately was up to Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat.
The past week has seen some of the worst violence in the 17 months of Mideast fighting, with repeated international efforts failing to end the bloodshed and each side claiming they had no choice but to hit back at the other.
"The response will be hard, and the Zionist enemy will understand that it is going to pay a high price," Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the militant Islamic movement Hamas, said yesterday.
The Palestinian Authority demanded immediate international intervention to stop "this barbaric Israeli aggression against our people and our land."
In the deadliest episode, an Israeli tank shell fired from long distance slammed into a pickup truck, killing the wife of a Hamas militant and the couple's three children, 8, 14 and 17.
Hussein Abu Kweik's wife had just picked up the children from school and was driving in a well-to-do neighborhood of Ramallah when the shell turned the vehicle into a mangled piece of steel.
A second car, passing in the opposite direction, was hit by shrapnel, killing two youngsters, ages 4 and 16.
Abu Kweik, who was not in the pickup, vowed to avenge the deaths.
"I swear to God they will pay a very high price for this crime," said Abu Kweik. "We will continue our resistance until it's the end of the last (Israeli) soldier on our lands."
Abu Kweik is a local leader with Hamas, which has carried out many of the 40 suicide bombings against Israelis during the current conflict.
The Israeli military said the tank shell was aimed at a car carrying armed Palestinian policemen and hit the truck by mistake. Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed "regret at the loss of life of Palestinian civilians."
Israel has killed dozens of suspected Palestinian militants in targeted attacks, but army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey said Abu Kweik was not a target.
Israeli troops also staged two new raids into refugee camps.
In the Jenin camp in the West Bank, six Palestinians were killed and 20 wounded in fierce shootouts, witnesses and hospital officials said.
Dr. Khalil Suleiman, who was overseeing rescue efforts from an ambulance, was killed and three colleagues were wounded when the ambulance was hit by an Israeli tank shell, Red Crescent officials said. The driver said an oxygen canister exploded inside the vehicle.
The Israeli army said the ambulance approached a checkpoint at high speed, and that soldiers used "light weapons fire," fearing the vehicle was trying to run them down.
The army has said ambulances are being used to smuggle weapons and gunmen; Palestinians say soldiers fire indiscriminately at rescue vehicles.
Troops exchanged fire with men in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza on the border with Egypt, killing two armed Palestinians and a civilian, doctors said. The Israeli military said troops searched for tunnels used to smuggle arms under the border.
Also yesterday, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man who ran toward an Israeli army checkpoint near the West Bank town of Nablus, the army said.
Casualties soared over the past week, when Israel raided two West Bank refugee camps in an attempt to break up militant strongholds, killing 23 Palestinians in retaliations for Palestinian attacks.
The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, struck back with two attacks a suicide bombing in ultra-Orthodox religious neighborhood of Jerusalem, and a sniper attack in the West Bank.
In 17 months of fighting 1,043 people have died on the Palestinian side and 312 on the Israeli side.

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