GAZA CITY/RAMALLAH, 27 May 2007 — Israel yesterday killed five Palestinians in air raids minutes apart in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, Israeli forces arrested a second Palestinian minister in a week.
The Israeli attacks came hours after fighters in Gaza floated the idea of halting rocket fire on Israeli border towns if Israel ended its 10-day-old air campaign. After the attacks, Hamas said a truce is no longer being considered and if Tel Aviv continued to target its men it could forget about a deal to release a captured Israeli soldier.
Witnesses and medical sources said that five members of the Executive Force of Hamas were killed and six injured when Israeli warplanes hit their base in Al-Zaitoun neighborhood northeast of Gaza City. The attack on the Hitin base completely destroyed the three-story building. Israeli warplanes also bombed a training camp of the Al-Qassam Brigades in the west of Gaza City.
The dead in the Al-Zaitoun attack were identified as Adel Al-Sefi, Ali Al-Nashar, Ahmed Al-Dam, Mohammed Al-Deri and Zaher Dalol.
Also yesterday, two Palestinians opened fire at an Israeli security patrol in East Jerusalem, near the wall Israel is erecting along Jerusalem’s municipal boundary, injuring two, police said. Israeli border police at the scene fired at the attackers, killing both of them. Israeli emergency services said two Israelis were injured and evacuated to hospital, one in serious condition and another moderately wounded.
An offshoot of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is affiliated with Fatah, claimed responsibility for the shooting, according to the Palestinian news website Maan.
In a village near the West Bank city of Jenin, Israel forces seized Palestinian Minister Wasfi Qabaha early in the morning. Qabaha is state minister for the wall and settlements affairs. Five soldiers came to Qabaha’s house before dawn and took him and his computer and files, according to his daughter, Ryan. According to the minister’s wife, the troops physically abused her husband and damaged property.
The arrest of Qabaha came two days after Israeli forces carried out arrests of 33 members of Hamas’ political wing in the West Bank in late night raids. Among them were Palestinian Education Minister Nasser Al-Shaer, four mayors and three members of the Palestinian Parliament.
Qabaha and Al-Shaer were arrested last year in a similar sweep after the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit but they were released later. Qabaha had been arrested seven times by the Israeli Army between 1989 and 2005. He has spent nearly six years in different Israeli jails.
Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, said that if the lives of the Hamas leadership continued to be threatened so would be a potential deal to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured by Palestinians in June last year. “The enemy knows that getting Shalit back is in our hands,” he said. He stressed Shalit’s life was not in danger, but rather his freedom.
— Additional input from agencies