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6 Killed in Middle East Violence


Israeli forces have killed at least six Palestinians, including a military leader of Hamas, in an air strike in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, vowed revenge Wednesday for an Israeli raid that killed at least three of their activists.

Hamas issued the warning after an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car in Gaza City late Tuesday, in an operation aimed at top military commander Saed Arabeed. Hamas confirmed that Mr. Arabeed, whom Israel held responsible for a series of deadly terrorist attacks dating back to the mid-1990s, was killed in the attack, along with two other Hamas members.

Israeli security officials claim Mr. Arabeed had been responsible for masterminding suicide bombings, including one on a bus in Tel Aviv in 1994 that left 21 people dead. He was regarded as the deputy to Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif, who heads Israel's most wanted list of Palestinian fugitives.

The air raid, the first in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war in Iraq, also resulted in Palestinian civilian casualties, Palestinian residents said. Among them was a 12-year-old boy.

Israel's deputy defense minister, Ze'ev Boim, defended the operation, while at the same expressing deep regret for the killing and wounding of civilians. He said the operation had succeeded in cutting off what he called a head of the snake of the Hamas leadership that has waged a terrorist war against Israel.

In what appeared to be a response to the raid, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a homemade Kassam rocket at an Israeli town in the Negev area. There were no fatalities, but at least one Israeli was treated for shock following the attack.