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Israeli Helicopters Fire Missiles at Gaza Strip Metal Shop - 2003-01-06

Israel is set to take a series of punitive measures against the Palestinians following Sunday night's dual suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, which killed at least 22 people and injured another 100. The first response was an Israeli missile attack in the Gaza Strip, which slightly injured five Palestinians.

In a nighttime raid, Israel sent its helicopter gunships into the Gaza Strip, where they fired missiles at two metal workshops which Israel says were used to make weapons.

The strike came during an emergency meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet, where officials agreed to intensify pressure on Palestinians to stop terror attacks.

Israel also decided to step up raids against suspected Palestinian militants and to further limit the movement of Palestinians. That means top Palestinian leaders will not be allowed to travel to London for a January 14 meeting to discuss Palestinian reforms, nor will Palestinian lawmakers and political leaders be allowed to travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah to attend a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council, which was scheduled for later this week.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the decision saying the restrictions would only add fuel to the fire. And, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted on British radio as saying, the while he deplores the suicide bombings, he hopes Israel will reconsider its decision to ban Palestinian leaders from traveling to the London talks.

Israel has also decided to shut down three Palestinian colleges it says were used to incite "terrorism."

The punitive measures were decided upon after two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up near the old bus station in central Tel Aviv late Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks since the Palestinian uprising began 27 months ago.

There were initial conflicting claims of responsibility. But, it seems that a splinter group of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carried out the attack. The Brigade is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

Prime Minister Sharon blamed the Palestinian leadership for the bombing. The Palestinian Authority, however, condemned the bombing as a "terrorist attack."