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Senior Palestinian Wounded in Israeli Attack - 2001-08-23

Israeli military forces have fired missiles at a car in the West Bank, wounding at least four people including a senior member of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Four other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli tank fire in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers fired surface-to-surface missiles on a car wounding Jihad al-Musimi near the West Bank town of Nablus.

Witnesses say the first missile narrowly missed the car and left a deep crater in the road.

The second hit the car, but the occupants had already fled.

Israeli military sources say they tried to kill the Palestinian official because he was involved in attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

One Israeli official said Mr. al-Musimi's resume is "written in blood."

The Israeli army says he was kept in an Israeli prison between 1979 and 1987 for "involvement in terrorist bombings."

Palestinian officials called the attack a "failed assassination attempt," and an escalation by the Israeli government against the Palestinians.

Mr. al-Musimi was previously a police official in Nablus and regarded as a senior member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Also Thursday, Palestinian militants fired mortar shells at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli tanks responded by entering the Palestinian town of Deir el-Balah and firing on a security post.

The incidents came a day after Israeli combat helicopters fired missiles on a convoy of cars in Gaza carrying a bomb maker for the militant group Hamas.

The bomb maker Adnan al-Ghoul escaped death, but his son, who was also a militant, was killed.

The United States and many other nations have condemned Israel's policy of targeting activists, a policy Israel says is necessary to stop terrorist attacks.

Israeli government spokesman Zalman Shoval says it is time for both sides to implement recommendations designed to end the conflict made by an international commission led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. "After all," Mr. Shoval said, "what Israel is proposing is, let's stop the violence. Let's sit down at the negotiating table. Let's try to implement the Mitchell report. Both sides will have to make compromises, but first the bloodshed and murder and terrorism have to stop."

The continuing violence may have cast a shadow over diplomatic efforts to bring Mr. Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres together for truce talks.

Mr. Arafat has suggested that such a meeting could take place soon in Berlin. Mr. Peres says talks could be held as early as next week, but noted that preparations are still being made.

U.S. officials brokered a cease-fire last June, but it failed to stop the violence.

More than 700 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed since the uprising against Israeli occupation began last September.