Israeli Forces Kill 3 in West Bank, Gaza
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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli helicopters blasted a security guard post with missiles in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the deaths of seven Israeli soldiers.
In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli troops searching caves for members of the militant Islamic Jihad group came under fire and shot dead two suspected militants.
The man killed in the Gaza Strip helicopter attack was identified as uniformed guard Mustafa Sabah, 35. The army said Sabah was involved in three powerful roadside bomb attacks against Israeli tanks in Gaza that killed seven soldiers from February to September.
In the attack Wednesday, two helicopters fired several missiles at a cinderblock hut used by security guards at a Palestinian government complex.
After the first missile struck, Palestinian driver Muhannad Abu Assi said he hit the ground. ``Then I saw another three missiles coming at the same time. They hit the small room from two directions,″ he said.
Israeli helicopters have hovered over Gaza City on several occasions in the past two days, apparently looking for an opportunity to strike. Israel has carried out dozens of targeted killings against suspected Palestinian militants during the past two years of Mideast fighting.
The Israelis say the operations are self-defense, but Palestinians and human rights groups object to the practice. Palestinians charge the Israelis are killing their leaders, and human rights groups complain the operations are summary executions without judicial process.
The West Bank gunbattle occurred in the village of Tufah as Israeli troops searched caves for members of the militant Islamic Jihad group. Palestinian medics said they found the bodies of two suspects among trees in a remote valley, with gunshots in the head.
Israel also said it detained an American doctor for two weeks on suspicion he was linked to al-Qaida, before releasing him without charge. The U.S. Embassy said it was barred from seeing the doctor during his detention, and there was no evidence linking him to any terror group.
Dr. Khaled Nazem Diab, 34, arrived in Israel on Nov. 14 on a mission for the Qatari Red Crescent and the University of Missouri Trauma Center to train Palestinian social workers, said Farek Hussein, director for the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Diab was detained at Ben-Gurion International Airport by Israeli officials, held for two weeks, and then released last week and deported to Jordan, Hussein said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said embassy officials sought to see Diab but were denied access.
``We have no evidence that he was involved in terrorist activity,″ said Patin. ``He’s a qualified doctor. He’s been in and out of the (Palestinian) territories doing humanitarian work with children.″
Patin said he did not know Diab’s hometown or where he lived in the United States.
Israel’s government press office released a statement Wednesday saying Diab was suspected of funneling money to al-Qaida and other unidentified terror groups.
It said Diab worked with an Islamic charity group, al-Najda, which has been investigated and shut down in the United States, and had lived in Afghanistan and was in close contact with groups that identify with the Taliban. The statement also said Diab had contacts with activists connected to the militant Hamas.
Israel did not provide evidence to support the claims.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Anne Marks said a U.S. consular official from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv met with Diab prior to his deportation and that Diab did not complain of any mistreatment.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops shot a 15-year-old Palestinian youth in the head and critically wounded him after he pointed a toy gun, Palestinians said.
The youth, Shadi Akhras, was pointing the fake gun at a friend, Allam Solaibi, according to Solaibi’s mother Ribhiye. Soldiers saw Akhras and fired on him, she said. The Israeli military said troops identified a gunman and opened fire.
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinian leadership would have to be replaced before peace negotiations could resume.
``There is no possibility for change with the present Palestinian leadership,″ Netanyahu told a security conference near Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu repeatedly has called for the expulsion of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and said he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state.