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Israel Kills 6 in Gaza, Including Top  Hamas Members - 2002-06-24

Missiles fired from Israeli helicopter gun ships hit two cars in the Gaza Strip Monday, killing at least six Palestinians and wounding several others. Combat helicopters fired on the cars in the southern Gaza Strip near Rafah, close to the border with Egypt.

The Islamic militant group Hamas says senior members of its military wing were killed in the attack including Yasser Rezik, a militant wanted by the Jewish state for allegedly killing Israelis in the past and for planning future suicide attacks. Hamas officials are vowing revenge for the helicopter assault.

Israelis call such attacks targeted killings, while Palestinians say they are assassinations.

The Hamas group has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings inside Israel since the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began in September 2000.

Earlier, in Gaza City, Palestinian police put the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, under house arrest.

The Palestinian political leadership has been under intense Israeli and international pressure to arrest militants and reform the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks and troops have raided the West Bank city of Ramallah, surrounding the already battered headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, imposing a curfew and taking control of strategic points in the city.

Mr. Arafat is inside the compound. He was not hurt during the military operation.

Israel has now launched incursions into most major population centers in the West Bank following three Palestinian attacks last week that killed 31 Israelis.

The attacks prompted an Israeli policy shift to gradually re-occupy Palestinian territory until militants stop acts of terrorism against Israelis.

To deal with the expanded military operations in the West Bank, Israel is calling up at least 2,000 soldiers from the reserves.

More than a half-million Palestinians are now confined to their homes by Israeli curfews.