Two Palestinian gunmen snipped their way through a fence at the Israeli military's largest base in the northern Jordan Valley just before daybreak today 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 today, 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 the Fatah movement of the Palestinian Authority leader, Yasser Arafat, 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 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, for the second time in as many days, Israeli AH-64 Apache helicopters fired missiles into the car of a Palestinian militant driving along a residential street in the late afternoon. 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.
"I tried to get him out of the car," said a Palestinian man, his clothes soaked in blood, who asked that his name not be used. "He was full of blood, he was out of his head, he was saying prayers.
"Fire exploded from the car and I had to run away," he continued. When he returned to the car, "I put my hand on his neck and there was a pulse. After a few seconds, I lost the pulse."
Among the 15 Palestinians wounded in the attack, there were infants, several children and a woman, witnesses in the chaotic emergency room of a nearby hospital said.
Israeli security sources said Zatmeh "was responsible for the production and preparation of explosive devices, explosive belts, mortar bombs," and for the "recruiting of terrorists in suicide attacks." The security officials alleged he played a role in three attacks and one attempted attack in the Gaza Strip last year, including one using an explosive raft against a military patrol ship that injured four Israeli sailors.