RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Israel sent warplanes and tanks against Palestinian targets yesterday, killing the wife and three children of a Hamas militant in what the military said was a mistake. In all, 16 Palestinians died in retaliatory raids.

Paul Wong
Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian as they check his identity following an exchange of fire between troops in the West Bank yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

The multiple strikes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip followed a Cabinet decision Sunday to intensify military action after Israel was left reeling from Palestinian bombing and shooting attacks that killed 22 Israelis over the weekend.

After nightfall, Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s headquarters compound in Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said. Four Palestinians passing by the compound were wounded, doctors said. The building had been evacuated for days in expectation of an Israeli attack.

Witnesses said the warplanes set two security buildings on fire. Palestinian security official Ahmed Abdel Rahman condemned the attack, calling it “dangerous escalation.”

The Israeli military said the attacks were a “response to murderous attacks of the past few days.”

“We are in a war over our home and the war is horrible,” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament, vowing Israel will not succumb to what he has described as a relentless campaign of Palestinian terror.

“I am sure in the end that we will win and peace will come to this home,” he said.

Sharon said the Palestinians must absorb punishment to learn that terrorism does not pay.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell praised a proposal by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to host a summit meeting between Sharon and Arafat. Mubarak, who is in Washington, said he hoped such a meeting might “change the atmosphere.”

It’s an interesting idea,” said Powell. But he said a decision ultimately was up to Sharon and Arafat.

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