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Israeli Forces Destroy Homes of Palestinian Gunmen - 2002-11-29

Israeli troops on Friday blew up the homes of two Palestinian gunmen who attacked an office of Israel's Likud Party a day earlier, killing six Israelis and wounding more than 20.

Israeli troops entered the West Bank village of Jalboun before dawn and blew up the homes of the two men who carried out Thursday's attack.

The men, both of whom were killed during the attack, were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. Al Aqsa had earlier claimed responsibility for the shooting.

The Palestinian Authority condemned Thursday's attack at the Likud office in the northern Israeli town of Beit Shean, and said Fatah was not involved in any way. A statement said such attacks harm the Palestinian cause.

In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, two gunmen from the militant Islamic group, Hamas, attacked the Jewish settlement of Dolah, wounding two Thai workers and an Israeli. One of the gunmen was killed during the shooting.

A poll published Thursday found a majority of Palestinians want their own security forces to crack down on militants attacking Israel, a shift that coincides with unprecedented criticism from Mr. Arafat's deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, of two years of violence against Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, responding to the Beit Shean shooting and the two attacks Thursday on Israeli tourists in Kenya, vowed to avenge the deaths.

As he put it, the long arm of the Israeli security forces will catch the attackers and those who sent them. He said Israel will hunt down those who have spilled the blood of its citizens.

Mr. Sharon's remarks came as he delivered a somber victory speech, in the wake of his landslide win for the leadership of the Likud party against his foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Sharon also predicted Likud would double its numbers in the next parliament in the January 28 elections.

He will face Amram Mitzna, the newly elected head of Labor, the other main party in Israel.

Mr. Mitzna is pledging to revive talks with the Palestinians, without pre-conditions and to immediately withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip.

He also wants to pull back from most of the West Bank within a year, even if negotiations with the Palestinians break down.

Mr. Sharon says he, too, is seeking a final peace settlement with the Palestinians but insists no negotiations can take place until the violence stops.