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Israel Strikes at Palestinian Militants in Gaza, At Least 3 Killed - 2004-09-27

One day after a mid-level Hamas leader was killed in a car bombing in Damascus, an Israeli helicopter targeted a Palestinian militant in Gaza. Israeli forces also moved against suspected militants in the West Bank. And, a popular Palestinian leader plans to run for the Palestinian parliament.

The Palestinian targeted in Gaza, Mohammed Abu Nsaira, was critically wounded in the attack. He is a commander of the Popular Resistance Committee, which is blamed for two bombing attacks on Israeli tanks.

An Israeli helicopter fired missiles at his car as it was moving along a road in southern Gaza. Another militant traveling with him was killed.

Israeli forces killed at least three other Palestinians in clashes in refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank.

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces raided a private hospital in the West Bank town of Jenin in search of suspected militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had already warned of the intensified campaign against Hamas and other Palestinian militants during his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. The military operations in Gaza are expected to increase ahead of Mr. Sharon's planned withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the area next year.

The air strike in Gaza comes one day after a mid-level Hamas leader was killed in a car bombing in Damascus.

Syria and Hamas blame Israel. Israel has no comment on the killing, but a top Defense Ministry official warned Syria against allowing Hamas and other Palestinian fighters in its territory.

In other news, Israel's Justice Ministry says five Israeli border policemen have been arrested and charged with abusing two Palestinians at a West Bank checkpoint, as they were trying to cross into Jerusalem.

And, in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the wife of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has registered him to run in the next parliamentary elections.

Mr. Barghouti won a parliamentary seat in 1996, the last time elections were held.

The problem this time is Marwan Barghouti is serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail. He was arrested two years ago, and convicted of participating in deadly attacks against Israelis.

Mr. Barghouti headed Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in the West Bank, and was often described as a possible Arafat successor.