post-strike car 298.
(photo credit: AP)
A top terrorist commander responsible for the deaths of at least 20 Israelis was one of two wanted men killed Tuesday afternoon in a targeted Israeli airstrike. The car in which they were traveling in the Gaza Strip's Jabalya refugee camp was hit by a missile.
Hassan Madhoun, 32, a leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and Hamas commander Fawzi al-Kudrawas were killed.
According to the army, Madhoun was involved in numerous attacks and was in the midst of planning a suicide bombing at the Karni goods crossing. He also maintained contact with terror cells in the West Bank, urging them to launch additional attacks. Many of the terror attacks he masterminded were carried out with the cooperation of Hamas and Popular Resistance Committee operatives.
In response to the IAF strike, security forces went on high alert, particularly along the Gaza security fence, and residents in Sderot and other parts of the western Negev braced for a renewal of Kassam rocket attacks.
Several times this year, Israel requested that the Palestinian Authority arrest Madhoun because his terrorist activities could lead to a sharp deterioration in the situation, but the requests were ignored. Madhoun had served in the PA's Preventive Security Service and, according to the army, some of his activities were funded by Hamas.
In March 2004, Madhoun dispatched the two suicide bombers who were smuggled in a false-backed container through the Karni crossing to Ashdod Port where they killed 10 Israelis. He was also involved in Kassam rocket production, including recent attacks.
Madhoun recruited and dispatched the female suicide bomber who was intercepted by troops as she was en route to blow herself up at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. He was also involved in the January bombing at the Karni crossing in which six were killed and the January 2004 suicide bombing at the Erez crossing in which four were killed.
Palestinian media reports claimed nine bystanders were wounded in the air strike and said the vehicle the two were traveling in had the red license plates of vehicles used by members of the PA security forces. According to the reports, the vehicle was hit just minutes after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's convoy passed through the area.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Musry said his organization would retaliate. He said the air strike was a declaration of war, and Abu Odai, an Aksa Martyrs Brigades spokesman in Gaza, also vowed retaliation. He said the strike brought an end to any understandings concerning a truce.
After the strike, a mortar shell hit harmlessly in the Western Negev.
In raids conducted by security forces in northern Samaria Tuesday morning, 23 fugitives affiliated with Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah were arrested. One of two Palestinians detained in Jenin was an 18-year-old who was planning a suicide bombing.
One soldier was lightly wounded during the operation.
Meanwhile, Egyptian police killed two Beduin smugglers who were trying to sneak across the Sinai border into Israel, a senior police officer said.
Suleiman Salama, 21, and Salem Musleh, 38, were shot dead Monday night while approaching the border in the district of Arijan, said Gen. Ali Makhamer of the police in Northern Sinai province.
The two men's bodies were found with cigarettes and tobacco that they were presumably intending to sell in Israel, Makhamer said.