- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP — Israel pounded more Hamas targets with air strikes yesterday and early today, killing 10 persons and wounding dozens amid fighting between the Islamic militants and Fatah fighters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The latest attack came this morning as Israeli aircraft fired missiles east of Gaza City, killing four Palestinians, at least three of them Hamas militants, and wounding six persons, Hamas and Palestinian doctors said. There was no Israeli comment. Two other strikes followed, but there was no word of any casualties, the doctors said.

Mr. Abbas, known by his nickname Abu Mazen, postponed a planned visit to the Gaza Strip after officials learned of a possible assassination attempt.

“Abu Mazen’s visit to Gaza was canceled after the discovery of a tunnel under Salaheddine Road full of explosives placed by the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades to blow up [his] convoy,” said a senior security official, referring to Hamas’s military wing, Agence France-Presse reported.

The strikes followed days of Hamas rocket barrages into southern Israel. Israel’s government said its attacks were intended solely to discourage those rocket attacks.

Street fighting between the Palestinian factions that gripped Gaza since the weekend calmed under a truce agreement, but clashes still killed at least four people — a day after 22 died in the worst battles during a year of factional bloodshed.

There was no sign of any Israeli military buildup that would indicate plans for a serious intervention into chaotic Gaza, though a few tanks and soldiers moved just across the Gaza border.

“Israel will take every defensive measure to stop these rocket attacks,” government spokeswoman Miri Eisen said.

Although Israel said it wasn’t taking sides, the air strikes did make it harder for Hamas gunmen to move around and that could help Fatah’s fighters.

Hamas accused the Abbas-linked forces of working with Israel — a charge dismissed as “absurd” by a Fatah spokesman.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Israel had shown “great restraint” in exercising its right to self-defense.

A day after bombing two Hamas targets, Israeli aircraft struck a Hamas command center, a trailer housing bodyguards and two vehicles, citing the firing of more than 50 rockets at the Israeli border town Sderot over three days.

Yesterday’s air strikes came on the fifth day of factional fighting that appeared to be tearing apart a Hamas-Fatah unity government formed two months ago. In all, 46 Palestinians had been killed by the infighting since Sunday.

In the biggest Israeli strike of the day, a bomb hit a two-story building belonging to Hamas’ militia, the Executive Unit, destroying it and several nearby structures. The blast killed a militant and wounded 45 persons, including civilians.

Later, Israeli missiles struck a trailer housing bodyguards of a Hamas official and a car carrying two senior Hamas militants, killing two persons.

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