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Israel Battles Palestinians, Political Strife

Israel launched multiple missile strikes in Gaza Monday, in response to Palestinian rocket fire. And Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faces what is considered a key test of his leadership within the Likud Party.

Early on Monday, Israeli aircraft attacked at least five buildings in Gaza, which the Israeli army said were used by Hamas and other militant groups as weapons factories. The airstrikes knocked out power to eastern Gaza City and damaged several buildings, but no injuries were reported.

The attacks were part of an Israel offensive in retaliation for several recent Palestinian rocket attacks -- despite a pledge by Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar to halt rocket attacks on Israel.

Mister Zahar spoke Sunday, just hours after an Israeli airstrike killed a top commander in the Islamic Jihad militant group. Mister Zahar says his group remains committed to a seven-month-old cease-fire and wants to prevent further Israeli attacks.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his political rival Benjamin Netanyahu both cast their ballots Monday afternoon in an internal Likud Party vote that has become a contest for leadership of the party.

The vote was on a motion by Mister Netanyahu to move a party primary election to November, to protest Mister Sharon's removal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza after 38 years of occupation.

Mister Netanyahu may try to take over leadership of the party, if he can muster enough support for a no-confidence vote in the Sharon government.