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Israeli Gunships Target Palestinian Military Compound - 2001-12-08

Israeli helicopter gunships hit a Palestinian security facility inside a Gaza refugee camp early Saturday morning. The Israeli army says the strikes were in response to Palestinian mortar attacks on Jewish settlements there.

The target this time was a Palestinian military compound in southern Gaza. Missiles were fired at offices used by Palestinian intelligence services and Yasser Arafat's elite bodyguard unit, known as Force 17.

The area had already been evacuated in expectation of an Israeli attack. No injuries have been reported.

The strikes before dawn on Saturday came a day after Israeli fighter jets hit the police compound in Gaza City. Israel's military says it destroyed a mortar factory there. At least 18 people were injured in that strike.

An Israeli army statement on Saturday linked the security services working in the two compounds to mortar attacks against Jewish settlements located in central Gaza. Palestinian officials deny the charge.

Israel says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not doing enough to crack down on extremist violence. So it is targeting elements of the Palestinian Authority that it claims support terrorism. Suicide bombings last weekend killed 25 Israelis.

Mr. Arafat says he is doing all he can to crack down on the extremists and complains the Israeli air strikes are undermining his efforts. He told an Israeli TV interviewer Friday he has arrested 17 of the 33 terrorist suspects wanted by the Israeli government.

U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni had provided the Palestinian leadership with the list of wanted suspects. Mr. Zinni met Friday with Palestinian and Israeli security officials and will continue the talks on Sunday. A U.S. statement issued after the Friday meeting said only the two sides had talked about practical steps to combat terror and violence. An Israeli official later told reporters it had been a "difficult" meeting.