- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An Israeli aircraft struck a training camp used by Palestinian militants yesterday, killing five members of a group that has close ties to the ruling Hamas movement.

The air strike raised already heightened tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and sparked a new crisis for Islamic militant group Hamas, which is under heavy international pressure to renounce violence since taking the helm of the government.

The Israelis hit a base used by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an umbrella group responsible for numerous rocket attacks against Israel. During five years of fighting, the Israeli army has killed dozens of militants in so-called targeted killings.

The attack scattered body parts and left pools of blood in a field just yards away from the home of Moumtaz Dourghmush, the top militant commander in the resistance committees. Dourghmush was not at the scene, but a brother and three cousins were among the dead, hospital officials said.

Dourghmush is known to have close ties with Hamas’ military wing and has received training and funding from the group in the past.

Israeli security officials say he was involved in an attack last month on the main Israel-Gaza commercial crossing, which they said was planned in coordination with Hamas.

Abu Mujahid, an official with the resistance committees, said at least three missiles landed in the field as members were training. “God willing, this is not going to stop our heroic battle against the Zionists, and the blood is the fuel of our resistance and our reprisal is coming soon,” he said.

The group pledged to respond with more than 100 homemade rockets.

The army confirmed it had targeted the militants as they were training to carry out attacks. Later yesterday, the army fired artillery shells at suspected rocket-launching sites in northern Gaza.

The PRC also has blown up Israeli tanks and is widely thought to be behind the deadly bombing of a U.S. diplomatic convoy in October 2003.

Last month, Hamas appointed the head of the PRC, Jamal Abu Samhadana, to head a new security force. The appointment infuriated Israel and was vetoed by the moderate Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas has vowed to push forward with its plan. Last week, about 200 PRC militants conducted an exercise in the same field that was hit yesterday in preparation for joining the new force.

The air strike occurred as Mr. Abbas was arriving in Gaza from his West Bank headquarters. Mr. Abbas is scheduled to meet this weekend with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in hopes of resolving an ongoing power struggle.

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