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Israeli Troops Kill Islamic Jihad Commander in West Bank

Israeli forces on Wednesday killed a top West Bank commander of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in an operation in the occupied West Bank. In response, the group launched Qassam rockets against southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. Also Wednesday, an exiled leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas ruled out a prisoner exchange with Israel. Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem.

Palestinian militants in Gaza launched more than 40 Qassam rockets against the town of Sderot, just across the Gaza border in southern Israel. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, saying they were in retaliation for the killing by Israeli forces early Wednesday of Walid Obeidi, a senior Islamic Jihad military commander in the West Bank.

In the Gaza strip, ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, Palestinian medical workers said an Israeli air strike near Gaza City killed at least three Palestinian civilians, including a teenager. Israeli military authorities say they regret any loss of civilian life and have begun an investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, at least 14 Palestinian militants and three Palestinian civilians were killed during an Israeli incursion into the Gaza strip. It was the most violent clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants since the Mideast peace process was revived last November. Also Tuesday, a Palestinian sniper killed an Ecuadorian volunteer working at an Israeli kibbutz near the Gaza border.

Meanwhile, in Syria on Wednesday, Khaled Meshaal, an exiled leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, said Israeli actions over the past two days in Gaza have put an end to the possibility that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be exchanged for Hamas prisoners anytime soon.

Meshaal says Israeli actions will deprive Israel of getting Shalit back home, something he says Israel has been counting on.

The Hamas leader also said Israeli actions have ruled out any chances of a truce between Hamas and Israel, and he criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for continuing talks with Israel while Palestinians are being killed in Gaza.

A senior Israeli government official contacted by VOA says the Israeli government will not comment publicly on the matter, but that Israel demands the immediate release of Corporal Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants in 2006 from an Israeli post along the Gaza border.