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Israel Strikes Palestinian Base in Lebanon After Rocket Fire

From Associated Press

Israeli jets attacked a Palestinian militant group’s training base in southern Lebanon early today, hours after an Israeli border town was hit by rocket fire, the military said.

The base south of Beirut is operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small group that has been fighting the Jewish state for decades.

The military said it held Lebanon responsible for the rocket attacks.

There was no immediate word on casualties or damage in the strike by Israel, launched after three rockets landed late Tuesday in a residential area of Kiryat Shemona, near the Lebanese border. The rocket fire damaged some property but caused no injuries, the army said.

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Channel Two television showed the remains of what appeared to be a Katyusha rocket, along with pictures of holes in the ground and in the side of a home.

Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militants operate in southern Lebanon.

A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut said he had no knowledge of Tuesday’s attack, and the top commander of the Palestinian Fatah faction in Lebanon, Brig. Gen. Sultan Abul-Einein, denied Palestinian involvement, according to the local Future TV station.

Earlier, the Israeli military fired a barrage of artillery and missiles at the Gaza Strip before dawn Tuesday, hitting two Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade officies and a bridge the army said was used by militants to reach areas where they fire rockets.

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Israel’s aerial strikes were part of the army’s attempt to halt rocket fire on Israeli towns near Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has approved a buffer zone in northern Gaza, although the army said it had not yet implemented the plan, which includes firing on anyone who enters the area.

The army has been destroying roads and other installations used by militants to reach areas that put Israeli towns within range of their highly inaccurate, homemade rockets.

Since Israel’s withdrawal this summer from Gaza, more Israeli towns, including Ashkelon, have come into rocket range.

The offices of Al Aqsa, a group with links to the ruling Fatah movement, were targeted because militants used them to meet, plan and recruit, the army said. But Palestinians said the offices, empty during the airstrike, were used for social and educational purposes.

One missile was fired into each building, leaving holes in the outer walls, shattering windows and burning furniture, Palestinian witnesses said.

Also Tuesday, about 40 gunmen took over an election office in the West Bank town of Al Ram, near Jerusalem, demanding Fatah include more representatives of the town among its candidates for the Jan. 25 parliamentary election, an official said.


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