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Israeli Helicopters Launch 3 Airstrikes in Gaza City - 2003-10-20

Israeli aircraft carried out three air strikes in Gaza City within hours of each other, killing two suspected Hamas militants and a bystander, and wounding more than 20 others, including a number of women and children.

In the second of three air strikes, Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least two missiles into a pickup truck as it was stopped at a traffic light on a busy street in Gaza City. Two Hamas militants in the truck were killed. Hospital sources say a bystander was also killed in the attack.

Witnesses said the attack occurred near an elementary school and kindergarten that had just let out their students for the day.

Three hours earlier, Israeli aircraft struck a building the army says was being used by the militant group Hamas to manufacture weapons. The target was near the home of senior Islamic Jihad leader Abdullah Shami, who was unharmed.

An army spokesman denied that the man was the target of the attack.

Israel has repeatedly targeted sites it says are weapons factories, but it also routinely targets members of militant groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which have been behind numerous attacks against Israelis.

Palestinian witnesses also reported a third attack by helicopter gunships, which destroyed a car and small building.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia condemned the Israeli air strikes, saying such actions do not help efforts to halt the violence. He told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah that he wants the Israelis to sit down and negotiate a cease-fire.

Israel has repeatedly ruled out a cease-fire until the Palestinian authorities crack down on militants and halt attacks against Israelis.

The air strikes in Gaza City occurred hours after Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli military patrol near the West Bank city of Ramallah, killing three soldiers and wounding another.

The al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.