Israeli gunship kills three Palestinian militants


JERUSALEM - Missiles fired from an Israeli military helicopter killed three members of Islamic Jihad yesterday as they rode in a car on the edge of Gaza City.

About 10 bystanders, including several children, were reportedly injured in the strike, which took place about 6:30 p.m. local time on a crowded street in the Saftawi neighborhood.

Israeli military officials said that two of the men were senior activists in the militant group, which has taken responsibility for numerous shootings and suicide bombings of Israelis. One of those killed, Mahmoud Juda, was described by Islamic Jihad leaders as head of the group's military wing in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials said Juda had been responsible for directing many attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers, including an assault in October at a Jewish settlement called Netzarim in the central Gaza Strip that left three Israeli soldiers dead and two wounded.

The second man was identified as Ayman Dahdouh, who was responsible for planting bombs targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians, according to Israeli security sources. Both men were allegedly planning new attacks.

Also killed was Dahdouh's cousin, Amin Dahdouh. He was also identified by an Islamic Jihad leader as a member of the group but was not a target in the attack, according to Israeli officials.

Eyewitness Tareq al Kassas, 20, said as many as four missiles were fired into the car, a compact Subaru. An Israeli military spokesman declined to say how many were fired.

In other developments yesterday, a committee of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah movement ended a tempestuous four-day gathering in Ramallah by endorsing the pursuit of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel under the terms of the U.S.-backed "road map" initiative, and disavowing attacks on civilians.

Under terms of the peace plan, the Palestinians are to take steps to dismantle militant groups.

The moderate language adopted by the 126-member Revolutionary Committee was seen as being aimed at Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, which is affiliated with Fatah but whose members often operate in semiautonomous local cells.

The Fatah leaders warned militants who are members of their movement against attacks on Israeli civilians.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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