GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – An Israeli airstrike on a car in Gaza City on Wednesday killed the top commander of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing in the Gaza Strip.
Khaled Dahdouh, 45, was targeted in the attack, Palestinian police said. The Israeli military, which frequently carries out pinpointed attacks against militants in Gaza, had no immediate comment.
Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for the death of Dahdouh, who they said had survived nine Israeli attempts on his life.
Islamic Jihad, unlike the militant Hamas group that recently swept Palestinian elections, has disregarded a year-old informal truce with Israel, and has carried out all six suicide bombings that have taken place in that time. Over the past year, Islamic Jihad wanted men have been the focus of Israeli attacks and arrest raids.
Violence on Wednesday also spilled into the West Bank, where Palestinian militants shot and killed a Jewish settler traveling on a road near the settlement of Tapuah, military officials said.
The Al Aqsa Martrys’ Brigades, a group affiliated with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, took responsibility for the shooting. Israeli troops were searching for two gunmen who fled the scene, Israel Radio said.
In the Gaza airstrike, Dahdouh’s car was incinerated as it traveled over a speed bump. Hospital officials said two other people were wounded.
The explosion took place on a busy street in the residential area between Islamic University and the Finance Ministry compound in Gaza City. It knocked out electricity in the area and damaged several cars parked nearby.
Samira Daoud, 32, was standing on the balcony waiting for her children’s schoolbus to arrive when the blast occurred. “The explosion shattered all the windows of my apartment and some of the flying shrapnel from the windows hit me in the face,” Daoud said, her face splattered with blood. “I ran to the street to see if my children were there, and I saw a man lying outside of the car with a big white beard, and he was bleeding.”
The targeted killing was Israel’s first since early February, when Israeli airstrikes killed two Islamic Jihad rocketmakers.
Islamic Jihad said Dahdouh survived that attack and eight other Israeli assassination attempts against him. Dahdouh was behind the development and manufacture of a new generation of longer-range homemade rockets that militants have fired recently at southern Israel, Islamic Jihad said. He also planned and participated in several attacks against Israeli targets in Gaza and the West Bank.
A brother and cousin died in a targeted killing almost a year ago to the day, on Feb. 28, 2005. Islamic Jihad vowed retaliation for his death. “The Zionists will swallow the same bitter drink that each Palestinian family has drunk from before,” said Abu Dajana, a spokesman for the militant wing, regarding Israeli military attacks on Palestinians.
The group has rejected Hamas’ offer to join a Palestinian government that it is expected to form this month. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis, has largely stuck to the truce, though it has not renounced its violent campaign against Israel.
In other Gaza violence, three masked gunmen kidnapped the director-general of the Palestinian Lands Authority in Gaza, witnesses said. The motive for the kidnapping was not immediately known.
Masked militants often kidnap Palestinian and foreign officials in Gaza, sometimes holding them in custody for several days, but releasing them unharmed. In other news, Palestinian farmers in Gaza canceled plans to destroy 200 tons of produce that they have been unable to export since an Israeli-controlled crossing was closed Feb. 21, because they expect Israel to reopen the passage on Thursday, Palestinian border officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The Israeli army did not immediately confirm that the crossing would be opened on Thursday. The Karni crossing, the main cargo passage between Israel and Gaza, has been closed for almost five weeks since the start of the year. Israel says it has received information that Palestinian militants are planning to attack Karni, but Palestinian officials say the Israeli claims are unfounded.