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Israel hits rocket plants; Rockets hit Israel

Monday, January 13, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel destroyed dozens of weapons-production facilities in the southern Gaza Strip over the weekend. On Monday, Palestinian gunners fired three Kassam-3 rockets toward Israel in the biggest such attack in the more than two-year-old war with Israel.

An Israeli combined task force of infantry and armor, supported by helicopters, raided the Gaza city of Khan Yunis overnight Sunday and destroyed the facilities that manufacture rockets and other weapons. The force blew up six buildings in downtown Khan Yunis under heavy Palestinian fire.

Israeli military sources said the buildings targeted contained 35 metal production facilities used to assemble Palestinian weapons, Middle East Newsline reported. They said these included mortars and the Kassam-class short-range rocket.

As for the Paletinian rocket attack, Israeli security sources said one Kassam-3 struck the Israeli city of Sderot. The other two fell in fields near the city.

Two people were hurt in the rocket attack. The Hamas movement claimed responsibility for the rocket salvo, believed to have been fired from the northern Gaza town of Bet Hanoun.

On early Monday, an Israeli military force entered Bet Hanoun in an attempt to capture Palestinian insurgents and Kassam rocket launchers. Military sources said the Israeli attempt failed.

Palestinian sources said one Palestinian was killed and 15 people were injured in the Israeli military operation. The sources said the operation was the deepest strike by an Israeli force in Khan Yunis in months.

South of Gaza City, Palestinian insurgents attacked Israeli communities over the weekend. Two Palestinian teenagers, armed with knives, entered the Netsarim community and tried to stab an Israeli girl. One of the attackers was shot and injured.

The Kassam-3 is the latest model rocket developed by Hamas. The missile has a range of 10 kilometers and Israeli sources said Hamas is developing a rocket with a range of 20 kilometers.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Cabinet on Sunday that Israel would launch new attacks on Palestinian targets. Hours later, an Israeli AH-64A attack helicopter fired three missiles toward a car near Khan Yunis.

The Israeli attack was said to have targeted two Hamas operatives. Hamas said the operatives escaped and two Palestinian pedestrians were killed in the attack. In another development, Israel has shut down security liasion offices with the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli military took over three liasion offices in the West Bank over the weekend. The Palestinian security officers who served as liasions with Israel were disarmed and expelled from the facilities.

The only liasion facility left operating in the West Bank was the District Coordinating Office in Jericho. Offices in Kalkilya, Nablus and Tulkarm were shut down.

Israeli officials said liasion offices had been attacked by Palestinian insurgents, who often included members of the PA security forces. In at least one case, PA liasion officers have attacked their Israeli counterparts in the DCO.

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