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Israeli Missile Kills 2 Children, Wounds Militant - 2001-12-10

An Israeli missile strike has killed two Palestinian children in the West Bank and wounded at least seven other people.

During an Israeli helicopter strike, a Palestinian boy and a toddler were killed when missiles were fired at a car in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The victims were identified as 13-year-old Shadi Arafa and three-year-old Burhan al-Himuni.

A militant from the Islamic Jihad group, Mohammed Sidr, was the target of the air strike. Hospital officials say he was wounded and is suffering from burns over a large part of his body.

The missiles destroyed one car and damaged at least two others that were stopped at a traffic light.

One car took a direct hit, while the other vehicles were struck by debris that shattered windows and windshields.

The Israeli army says Mr. Sidr was targeted because he orchestrated shootings that killed three Israeli civilians and was planning future attacks.

The army says it "deeply regrets" the deaths of innocent civilians.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo called the incident a "criminal attack," and said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is "personally responsible."

Israel launched the helicopter strike a day after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and wounded at least 10 people in the port city of Haifa.

Following the bombing, Prime Minister Sharon and senior members of his Cabinet authorized more military strikes against Palestinian targets.

More than 25 people have been killed since Palestinian militants launched a series of recent suicide attacks inside Israel.

Meanwhile, U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni met with Mr. Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Both men urged him to stay in the region, one day after the retired Marine Corps general said he may end his mission, if no real progress is made to reduce the violence. General Zinni gave the sides 48 hours to make such progress.

American officials say they expect General Zinni to remain in the area and say he will convene a meeting of top security officials later this week.

General Zinni said earlier he would stay in the region for as long as it takes to negotiate a lasting cease-fire to end more than 14 months of conflict.