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Israel Fails to Get Top Islamic Jihad Leader in Gaza Attack - 2002-12-01

Palestinian officials say an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at a car in the Gaza Strip Sunday but failed to hit a top leader of the Islamic Jihad. Earlier, Israeli forces raided a town north of Gaza City.

An Israeli military helicopter fired two missiles at a car traveling east of Gaza City, but witnesses said the vehicle's occupants escaped before the rockets hit.

The driver and several bystanders were injured, but the apparent target of the operation reportedly managed to escape.

The Islamic Jihad, a group dedicated to Israel's destruction, said the missiles were intended to kill one of its military commanders, but he was unhurt. The organization did not identify the alleged target.

The incident followed an Israeli army raid into Beit Lahiya, about five kilometers north of Gaza City. Heavy clashes broke out after a force of some 30 tanks and armored vehicles entered the Palestinian self-rule area late Saturday.

Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants engaged in nearly three hours of gunbattles before the soldiers withdrew on Sunday.

During the raid, the troops also demolished three homes belonging to Islamic militants suspected of being involved in terror attacks against Israelis since 1996.

One of the homes belonged to Hisham Dab, a member of the Islamic Jihad. He was accused of an attack that killed 20 Israelis and injured 70 in Tel Aviv six years ago.

The body of Mr. Dab's father was found in the rubble of the collapsed building.

Meanwhile, a large contingent of Israeli security forces have been deployed around Jerusalem following warnings of possible terror attacks.

The Israeli police fear that militant Palestinian groups are planning to attack residents of the city taking part in week-long festivities to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.