JERUSALEM (AP) – A dispute over forming a new Palestinian Cabinet could delay a U.S.-backed Mideast peace plan, officials said yesterday, while Israel mounted its first air strike since the Iraq war began, killing a Hamas commander and six other people in Gaza City.
The slow pace of Palestinian politics provoked some impatience from President Bush, who has said he will not make public a U.S. supported “road map” for peace until a Palestinian government takes office.
Until the Gaza strike, Israel had scaled back its military operations, even though a suicide bombing, billed by Islamic Jihad as a gift to the Iraqi nation, wounded 30 people March 30.
In yesterday’s attack in Gaza, witnesses said, an F-16 warplane fired a missile at a car in Gaza City, turning it into a mass of charred metal. The mangled bodies of the people inside were brought to Shifa Hospital in Gaza. One of the dead was identified as Saed Arabeed, 38, a senior Hamas commander.
Doctors said seven people were killed and about 50 wounded. They said all of the wounded were civilians, ranging in age from six to 75 years old. Two of the other dead were also identified as Hamas activists and another was a child.
Israeli security sources said Arabeed, the main target, was responsible for a string of deadly attacks against Israelis, dating back a decade.
The attack was in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, known as a stronghold of the Islamic militant Hamas, responsible for dozens of attacks.
Israel has carried out many similar attacks during the Palestinian-Israeli violence, targeting suspected Palestinian militants. Palestinians and human rights groups have condemned the practice.