Hamas Says Israel Killed at Least 6 in Gaza Blast
At least six members of the Palestinian group Hamas died in a mysterious explosion in Gaza City today, hours after Israel's defense minister vowed retaliation for a Hamas bombing in Gaza on Saturday that destroyed an Israeli tank and killed the four soldiers inside. Hamas blamed Israel for the blast today, suggesting that the men were killed by a booby-trapped toy plane. But the Israeli government did not comment on the deaths. Israel has tracked down and killed scores of militants, often without claiming responsibility. Many have also died by accidentally triggering bombs they were assembling.
In Gaza, the bomb went off as several Hamas militants sat in a car near a farmhouse in a southern neighborhood of Gaza City, Palestinian officials said. One of those killed was Nidal Farahat, a top leader of the military wing of Hamas.
Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leader of Hamas, said one of the men was examining a strange toy found in the car when the explosion occurred. "This is an assassination done by Israel," he said.
Later, in a statement, Hamas said the men had been working on a small remote-controlled plane, which they evidently planned to use in an attack. Hamas said the men had received the plane today, implying that it had been booby-trapped by Israel.
Another leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said, "We're going to retaliate."
That would be one of the model planes that DEBKA reported on in January, and I reported here:
Model planes packed with explosives and operated by remote control. Last month, Palestinian toy importers in Jerusalem and Ramallah were told to order hundreds of these toys for distribution to Palestinian children in hospitals. Subsidies from European Union member-governments could legitimately be allocated to this humanitarian purpose. The model airplanes were purchased in Europe and shipped quite openly to the Palestinian shopkeepers. According to our sources, not a single toy reached an injured Palestinian child. The model planes were sent to Palestinian workshops for conversion into miniature air bombers with explosive payloads. DebkaFile estimated that the modified toys could fly for about a kilometer, and an altitude of 300 meters.
So DEBKA scores another one.
Posted by: Steve 2003-02-19