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Israel Launches Air Strike in Gaza City - 2003-10-20


Israeli warplanes bombed a house in Gaza City early Monday that the military says was being used to manufacture weapons. The building was next door to the home of a senior Islamic Jihad leader, who escaped unharmed even though at least six other people, including two children, were injured in the attack.

An army spokesman says the target of the air strike was a building used by the militant group Hamas to make Qassam rockets and other weapons. The military denies that Abdullah Shami, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, was the target.

Israel has repeatedly targeted sites it says are weapons factories, but it also routinely targets members of militant groups, such as 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 strike in Gaza City comes on the heels of an ambush by Palestinian gunmen of an Israeli military patrol near the West Bank city of Ramallah that left three soldiers dead and a fourth injured. The al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

At the same time, three Fatah officials are 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 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.

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