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Three Palestinians Killed in Helicopter Attack - 2003-06-10


An Israeli helicopter attack killed three Palestinians and wounded at least 30 others in the town of Jabalya, on the Northern Gaza strip, from which Palestinians had earlier fired rockets at a southern Israeli border town.

In another helicopter attack, Israel tried to assassinate a leading member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas calls it “a terrorist attack.” The White House says U.S. President George W. Bush is “deeply troubled” by the strike and he is concerned it could undermine new Palestinian efforts to end terrorist attacks against Israelis. Amy Katz has our report.

In an interview with Palestinian TV, Prime Minister Abbas called the Israeli attack “an awful crime and a terrorist operation.”

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (Arabic with English translation)
“Such attacks obstruct and sabotage every positive effort of the peace process, and end efforts to implement the road map.”

Raanan Gissin, an Israeli government spokesman, said Israel’s policy is still to pursue the road map peace plan, but also to make every effort to achieve security and peace.

RAANAN GISSIN, ISRAELI SPOKESMAN
“However I also should reiterate that the Prime Minister has stated very clearly that we will not stop our fight against terrorism and (will) relentlessly continue to pursue the terrorists if the Palestinian Authority does not take any action.”

Mr. Gissin said the Tuesday attack on Abdel Aziz Rantissi was exactly that kind of action.

His comments came after Israel attempted to kill Mr. Rantissi, a top leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in a barrage of rocket fire from an Israeli military helicopter. Two bystanders, including an eight-year-old girl, were killed. 27 others were wounded, Mr. Rantissi among them. From his hospital bed he vowed Hamas would continue to attack Israelis.

The “spiritual leader" of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin said since Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians, Israeli civilians should also be targeted.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush is “deeply troubled” by the attack and views it as a threat to the peace process.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
“The President regrets deeply the loss of life and the injuries to innocent Palestinians. The President is concerned that the strikes will undermine efforts by the Palestinian authorities and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks, and the President thinks that this action does not contribute to Israel’s security.”

Mr. Fleischer also said Israel has a right to defend itself, but must act on that right in what he called “a manner consistent with larger objectives.”

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