Militants' 'bomb factory' blows up in Gaza City


JERUSALEM -- Islamic militants accidentally blew up their workshop while making bombs in Gaza City yesterday, killing at least six people and wounding more than 30 others, Palestinian police said.

Brig. Gen. Ghazi Jabali, chief of the Gaza City police, said that members of a military unit of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, were working in an elaborate "bomb factory" on the second floor of a three-story apartment building when they detonated explosives they were making.

The blast destroyed the building, raining debris across a mile-wide area in the densely populated Sheik Radwan neighborhood and throwing the badly torn bodies of some victims 300 yards away.

Among the dead were Kamal Kheil, 32, a top commander of the Iziddin al-Qassam unit, and Nidal Dadaeish, another Iziddin leader, General Jabali said. Mr. Kheil ranked high on Israel's most-wanted list for the 1993 ambush killing of the officer in charge of undercover units in Gaza and for the slayings of 16 Palestinians who had collaborated with Israeli forces.

The victims yesterday also included a 3-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, according to witnesses who saw their bodies pulled from the rubble.

Although police sources first put the apparent number killed at eight, General Jabali said that only six bodies had been identified. Rescue workers continued to dig through the rubble in a search for others believed missing.

A Hamas spokesman denied that the Iziddin members were making bombs and asserted that they had been blown up as a result of a conspiracy between the ruling Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Mahmoud Zahhar, a Hamas leader in Gaza City, told angry residents in Sheik Radwan, a strongly Islamic neighborhood, that Hamas was not making bombs there.

"This is a plot, they were assassinated, it was carried out by an explosives expert," Mr. Zahhar asserted. "This has happened before, and when we discover who was behind it, his fate will be as bad as this."

In its opposition to the accord reached between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on Palestinian self-government, Hamas has recently carried out a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, including an October attack that killed 23 people, including the bomber, on a rush-hour bus in central Tel Aviv.

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