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Israel Targets Militant Leader As Gunmen Attack Israeli Base

By Molly Moore
THE WASHINGTON POST -- JERUSALEM

Two Palestinian gunmen snipped their way through a fence at the Israeli military’s largest base in the northern Jordan Valley just before daybreak Thursday and opened fire, killing two soldiers standing guard and wounding another nine, some of whom were inside their tents, according to Israeli military officials. Israeli soldiers killed both attackers.

In violence elsewhere in the Palestinian territories Thursday, Israeli AH-64 Apache helicopters fired on the car of a Palestinian militant in the Gaza Strip, killing the target of the strike and wounding at least 15 civilians in the second such attack in as many days.

In the West Bank city of Tulkarm, undercover Israeli security forces fired on a car carrying members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group associated with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, killing the driver and wounding four other people, according to Israeli military officials.

The pace of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had slowed slightly after the outbreak of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, has intensified in recent days. After the Palestinian assault on the Bekaot military base, near a Jewish settlement of the same name in the northern Jordan Valley, about 35 miles northeast of Jerusalem, a spokesman said the Israeli military has opened an investigation into safety procedures there.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed joint responsibility for the attack in telephone calls to the Associated Press.

To the southwest, in Gaza City, Israeli AH-64 Apache helicopters fired missiles into the car of a Palestinian militant driving along a residential street in the late afternoon, killing the targeted man and wounding at least 15 nearby civilians. Mahmoud Zatmeh, a local militant leader in the Islamic Jihad organization, died minutes after the missile slammed into his car, according to witnesses at the scene.