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Israeli Troops Destroy Home of Palestinian Militant - 2003-09-30

Israeli troops on Tuesday blew up the home of an Islamic Jihad gunman they said shot dead two Israelis in the West Bank on the eve of the Jewish New Year. One of the victims was a seven-month-old baby. The Israeli soldiers arrived at the home of Mahmoud Hamdan, 22, before sunrise. They used dynamite to destroy his house in the village of Dura, near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli authorities said Mr. Hamdan infiltrated the Jewish settlement of Negohot as Israelis sat down Friday for holiday dinners marking Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

He knocked on the door of a trailer and shot a man who opened it, then killed a baby girl inside.

Security guards at the settlement shot and killed Mr. Hamdan, a member of the Islamic Jihad, a group that has carried out frequent attacks against Israelis, including suicide bombings.

Israeli forces decided that his family should also be punished for his crimes and destroyed the house he had shared with his mother.

Human rights groups have condemned such actions as a form of collective punishment. Israel says the demolitions are intended to discourage Palestinians from carrying out more attacks.

Meanwhile, three Arab citizens of Israel were charged with the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier two-months ago.

The charges are based on the confession of one of the three Arabs, who later retracted his statement, saying it had made under pressure from interrogators with Israel's secret police, the Shin Bet.

In a separate development, three members of a Jewish terror cell were given sentences ranging from 12 to 15 years.

The three were convicted earlier this month of trying to set off a bomb last year at a Palestinian girls' school in east Jerusalem.

The plot failed when some of the suspects in the cell were arrested by Israeli police.