Two Top Palestinian Fugitives Killed in Israeli Airstrike, Bringing Threats of Revenge

By IBRAHIM BARZAK Associated Press Writer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Nov 1, 2005 Israel killed two top Palestinian fugitives Tuesday in a missile attack on their cars, triggering threats of revenge by militants that could further erode the fragile truce between the two sides.

Even as tensions rose, however, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were trying to resolve remaining disputes over new security arrangements on the Gaza-Egypt border.

Earlier in the day, Israeli Cabinet ministers approved the deployment of European inspectors at the border, a breakthrough after weeks of slow-moving talks and a major step toward giving the Palestinians freedom of movement without Israeli controls for the first time in four decades.

But Palestinian negotiators complained that Israel is stalling on other key issues linked to its pullout from the Gaza Strip in September, including creating a passage between the West Bank and Gaza and speeding up the movement of cargo and workers from Gaza to Israel.

In Tuesday's airstrike, missiles slammed into a car carrying the fugitives Hassan Madhoun of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Fawzi Abu Kara of Hamas. The car was driving on a main road next to the Jebaliya refugee camp when it was hit.

Just minutes earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had traveled on the same road on his way to Gaza City, Abbas' bodyguards said.

Madhoun had been involved in rocket attacks on Israel, serving as a coordinator with other militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Israeli officials said. He also helped plan three bombing attacks in the past two years that killed 20 Israelis, including a blast in Israel's Ashdod port, the army said.

Hamas officials said Abu Kara was an expert in making homemade rockets.

Military officials said Madhoun was the main target of the attack. Nine bystanders were wounded.

Hamas and Al Aqsa, a violent offshoot of Abbas' ruling Fatah movement, threatened revenge. "This is an open war," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. "(The Israelis) are going to pay a heavy price for their crimes."