- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Three members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas were killed yesterday in a blast that appeared to have been caused by a bomb that went off prematurely.
Another six persons were injured in the blast, which occurred in the garage of a house in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood. Two of the wounded, also Hamas members, were in serious condition, medical officials said. Among the wounded was a 75-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl, the daughter of a Hamas militant.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tried to rebuild a government left in a shambles by the departure of the center-left Labor Party, and the Israeli leader was expected to court ultranationalists opposed to a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Mr. Sharon offered the defense portfolio vacated by Labor leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to former army chief Shaul Mofaz, who led large-scale offensives against Palestinian militants and advocated the ouster of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Mofaz left the army in July when his four-year term was up.
After the Labor Party quit Wednesday because of a dispute over funding for Jewish settlements in the 2003 state budget, Mr. Sharon was left with a minority government that controls only 55 seats in the 120-member parliament.
The opposition is pressing for new elections, but it may not muster 61 legislators needed to topple the government. However, it will become increasingly difficult for Mr. Sharon to govern.
Despite the unstable situation, Mr. Sharon was quoted as saying yesterday he would not seek elections ahead of the scheduled date November 2003.
"I plan to make every effort to establish an alternative government," Mr. Sharon told Yediot newspaper. "I have no intention of initiating early elections."
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a senior Hamas official, said the cause of the Gaza blast was being investigated, and "it may have been an internal explosion."

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