Israel Retaliates After 2 Soldiers Killed

ByABC News
October 12, 2000, 4:44 AM

J E R U S A L E M, Oct. 12 -- Israeli helicopter gunships opened fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip today after a Palestinian mob killed two Israeli soldiers.

Witnesses said helicopters fired in the vicinity of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafats headquarters in Gaza City, but the building was not hit and the Palestinian leader was not in the building during the attack.

Palestinian hospital officials said 17 people were wounded in the attacks.

President Clinton today strongly condemned the killings of the Israeli soldiers and said he understood the anguish felt by Palestinians, but that there was no possible justification for mob violence.

He called on both sides to work immediately for a cease-fire, and to condemn all acts of violence.

The use of helicopter gunships by Israelis has been seen as a clear escalation of hostilities in the region and has drawn strong reactions from the Palestinian side.

Black columns of smoke rose from Gaza City, and plumes of smoke curled above Ramallah, where witnesses said a radio transmission building, near Arafats office in the city, was hit.

The Israeli attack came shortly after Arafat met with CIADirector George Tenet in Gaza City.

It was the toughest Israeli military operation against thePalestinians in two weeks of violence in which at least 96 people have been killed, almost all Arabs.

Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles that knocked the Voice of Palestine radio off the air, witnesses said.

In Ramallah, Israeli rockets hit the police station where the killings of the Israeli soldiers took place and the officialPalestinian TV station, which had been broadcasting extensive video of the violent clashes of the past two weeks.

The police station was reduced to rubble, and flames were pouring from a second building.

Israel is also keeping Palestinians from leaving theircommunities in the West Bank.

More Reprisals, If Necessary

Hours after the launch of the attack, during which Israel gunships rocketed five targets in Ramallah and Gaza City, Danny Yatom, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, announced that the round of assaults were over.