HEBRON, West Bank (AP) Israeli attack helicopters struck a Palestinian police post in northern Gaza early today, after Palestinians fired mortars at Jewish settlements in violence that continued to snarl U.S. efforts to arrange a truce.

Paul Wong
Palestinians gather around the car hit by Israeli helicopter m in the West Bank town of Hebron yesterday. The missile attack, which killed a 3-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy, was apparently targeting an Islamic Jihad activist who was riding in the car

One person was slightly injured in the latest Israeli strike, Palestinians said. The building was evacuated before the attack, they said.

The Israeli military said the air strike was retaliation for Palestinian mortar fire at Jewish settlements in Gaza. An Israeli girl was slightly wounded by a mortar shell, a military statement said, “despite Israeli demands that the mortar attacks cease.”

Yesterday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car waiting at a stoplight in Hebron in the West Bank, killing two Palestinian boys, ages 3 and 13, and wounding at least seven people including a suspected Islamic militant who was the target of the attack.

The raid drew an angry response from the Palestinian leadership and further complicated peace efforts by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, who shuttled between meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a renewed bid to halt the violence.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, issued a statement yesterday calling on Arafat to dismantle Palestinian radical groups and declare an end to the violent uprising against Israel. European countries have traditionally tilted toward the Palestinians, and the move pointed to the increasing international pressure on Arafat to crack down on militants.

Still, the violence overshadowed the diplomatic initiatives.

In Hebron, one of the most volatile spots in the West Bank, a pair of Israeli helicopter gunships fired two missiles that damaged at least three cars waiting at a traffic light in a bustling part of the city.

A car carrying Islamic Jihad activist Mohammed Ayoub Sidr, 26, took a direct hit, wounding him and turning the vehicle into a charred, smoking ruin.

Another passenger in the car, 3-year-old Burhan Himouni, was dismembered, while his father lost both legs, said Dr. Jamil Haslamoun at Ahli Hospital. The two men in the car were related by marriage, and relatives said they had been headed to a bakery to buy traditional sweets for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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