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Israel Fails to Get Top Islamic Jihad Leader in Gaza Attack

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian officials said that an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at a car in the Gaza Strip Sunday but failed to hit a top leader of the Islamic Jihad. A military helicopter fired two missiles at a car traveling east of Gaza City, but witnesses said the occupants escaped before the rockets hit. The driver and several bystanders were injured, but the apparent target of the operation reportedly managed to escape. The Islamic Jihad, a group dedicated to Israel's destruction, said the missiles were intended to kill one of its military commanders, but he was unhurt. The organization did not identify the alleged target.


Defense Minister Names al-Qaida as Prime Suspect in Mombassa Attack

By VOA News, IsraelNationalNews & Ha'aretz

Israel's Defense Minister has named Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network as a prime suspect in last week's suicide bombing at the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Kenya that killed 16 people. Shaul Mofaz said Sunday in Jerusalem that suspicions that al-Qaida were behind the blast are deepening, although there is no tangible evidence.

Israel said it would also investigate why it was not aware of a possible attack in Kenya. Both the Australian and German governments each issued advisories against travel to Kenya in the days before the bombing. Mofaz also confirmed reports that the bomb used in the suicide bombing attack contained more than 440 pounds of explosives.

Three suicide bombers rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the Paradise Hotel on Thursday in Mombassa, killing 16 people, including themselves and three Israelis. Kenyan investigators reported they have found two fragments of the bomb - parts of a gas cylinder fastened to the underside of the vehicle to create a bigger explosion. Police have found the registration plate for the vehicle and are still searching for the owner. Kenyan authorities continue to hold for questioning six Pakistanis and four Somalis who they say arrived in Kenya by boat last week from Somalia.

Three Kenyan dancers killed in the attack were buried Sunday in the village of Kikambala. They were all members of the same family and performed in the Giriama traditional dance troupe.

The IDF army sent a team of 150 doctors, psychologists, and soldiers, as well as medication and food necessary for evacuation efforts from Mombassa, Kenya early Friday morning. Police and special security personnel will remain in Mombassa to investigate the circumstances of the suicide attack.

Ha'aretz reported Sunday that Kenya would not heed Israeli demands to turn over some evidence in the attacks, saying it would conduct the probe alone. The dispute threatened to delay the investigation into the suicide bombing and the failed missile attack on an Israeli charter jet moments earlier. American and Israeli leaders both questioned Kenya's ability to conduct a thorough probe.

Kenyan police officials said Israeli authorities want to take pieces from a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Pajero that exploded outside the hotel on Thursday, killing 10 Kenyans, three Israelis and the bombers inside. Israel also wants the launchers and missile casings from shoulder-launched rockets believed used in the attempt to shoot down the Israeli charter plane.

"None of this evidence is going back to Israel. This evidence is our responsibility," Kenyan bomb specialist Charles Jamu said. Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said from Jerusalem that Kenya had been cooperating "up to now," but that the Kenyans weren't prepared for the investigation. "They were not geared to this kind of a threat or they don't have the necessary resources or technological capabilities that would enable them to deal with that," Gissin said.

A senior U.S. government official told CNN that the Australian government passed information to Washington, warning of a terror attack in Kenya ahead of last Thursday's double attack. Australia, in light of the terror warnings, issued a travel advisory to her citizens.

Following the near-catastrophe in which two terrorist missiles just barely missed an Israeli civilian airliner, Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a group of foreign ambassadors Sunday that Israel plans to initiate an international pact for civil aviation defense.

"The firing of missiles on a civilian plane is a most dangerous development and terror escalation," he said. "This is the second warning bell we have had - September 11th was the first - but if there were governments that pressed the 'snooze' button the first time, they have now received the second alarm. We were very close to the downing of a civilian plane with hundreds of passengers aboard."

Netanyahu said that there must be a concerted joint international effort in several areas: developing technological means to defend planes, sharing of intelligence, and diplomatic cooperation to prevent the transfer of weapons from one terror group to another. He revealed that Iran supplies Hizbullah with shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles, for instance. HaModia military correspondent A. Pe'er reported on Friday that Israeli-developed technology to warn aircraft against missiles and possibly neutralize them already exists, though it is not yet ready for use.

Arutz-7 reported that the investigation of the missile attack had turned up the following important points: The two missile launchers were Strella FA7 models - the same as two others found last year near an airport in Prague. It was suspected at the time that these Russian-made models were meant to target an El Al flight that was carrying then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. In addition, investigators found two other ready-to-fire shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles and their launchers, of the same model. They were found only a few yards away from the suspected launch site of the two missiles, hidden under bushes.

Funerals were held Sunday afternoon for the three dead Israelis after their bodies were returned to Israel over the weekend. The funeral procession for Noy Anter, 12, and Dvir Anter, 13, from the West Bank city of Ariel, set out Sunday from Bnei Brak. Albert de Havila, 60, a tour guide killed in the blast, was laid to rest in the Ra'anana cemetery at 2 p.m.

An Ethiopian Airline flight from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv Sunday afternoon was diverted to an air force base due to security concerns. After it was realized that security ahead of the flight was not in compliance with Israeli standards, the decision was made to instruct the plane to divert from Ben-Gurion International Airport to the Uvda air force base. After establishing that there were no hazards associated with the flight, the clearance for landing at Ben-Gurion was given.

Thailand's prime minister has called on the many Thai laborers in Israel to reconsider remaining in Israel due to the security risks involved. That warning came after the shooting attack in Gush Katif last week in which two Thai laborers were wounded.

Israel Army Radio, Galei Tzahal, said 30,000 Palestinian residents living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza hold United States passports. According to the report, U.S. officials have called upon Israel to permit the American citizens free access to Ben-Gurion International Airport should they seek to leave the area in the event of a war with Iraq. However, an Israeli source explained that since there is such a large number, such an arrangement would not be possible due to security considerations.


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