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Israel Kills 2 Palestinians in Pair of Gaza Attacks - 2003-10-20

Israeli aircraft have struck a vehicle on a busy street in the Gaza Strip Monday, killing two Palestinians and wounding another five, including two children. The raid came just hours after a similar attack in Gaza that left seven people injured.

Helicopter gunships fired at least two missiles into a pickup truck as it was stopped at a traffic light on a busy street in Gaza City. Palestinian witnesses said a nearby elementary school and kindergarten had just let out their students for the day.

Israeli media report that the occupants of the pickup were members of the militant group Hamas.

Just three hours earlier, Israeli aircraft struck a building the army says was being used by the militant group Hamas to manufacture weapons. The target was near the home of senior Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah Shami, who was unharmed.

An army spokesman denies the man was the target of the attack.

Israel has repeatedly targeted sites it says are weapons factories, but it also routinely targets members of militant groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which have been behind numerous attacks against Israelis.

Islamic Jihad most recently claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a restaurant in the port city of Haifa earlier this month that killed 21 people. Israel responded to the attack by launching an air strike against what it said was an Islamic Jihad training camp in Syria.

Monday's air strikes in Gaza City come just hours after Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli military patrol near the West Bank city of Ramallah, killing three soldiers and wounding another. The al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

Three Fatah officials are currently in Washington to meet with members of Congress about possible new ideas for peace efforts. There is no indication the delegation will meet with officials of the Bush administration.

President George W. Bush has been promoting the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, which has gone nowhere amid renewed violence over the past few months.

A week ago Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, academics, politicians and members of the opposition drafted an agreement they say can serve as a model for peace.

The so-called Geneva agreement was reached after more than two years of secret talks sponsored and financed by Switzerland. The plan lays out a framework to tackle some of the most divisive issues between the two sides, including refugees, Jewish settlements, and Jerusalem.