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Israeli Missiles Target Fatah Office - 2004-05-16


Israeli helicopters have fired five missiles at a Gaza City office of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement.

Witnesses say the building in the Zeitoun neighbohood was empty when the strike occurred. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The missile strike came hours after Israel said it plans to increase military operations in the Gaza Strip, including renewed house demolitions and intensive air strikes, in an effort to improve security along the Gaza-Egypt border.

Sunday's cabinet decision came after Israel's Supreme Court lifted a temporary ban on the destruction of homes in Gaza's Rafah refugee camp.

Israeli army officials say it might be necessary to demolish hundreds of homes in Rafah, which they maintain are used by militants to launch attacks and smuggle weapons from Egypt.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that Washington opposes the demolitions.

Also Sunday, Israel Radio reported Israeli soldiers killed four armed Palestinians near the Israel-Gaza border community of Nahal Oz.

The incident followed a violent week in Gaza, where clashes left 13 Israeli soldiers and at least 32 Palestinians dead.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is continuing to develop a new plan to withdraw from Gaza, and he is expected to present the plan to his cabinet in the next few weeks.

The officials say the plan will still include the closure of all Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, but will contain measures to help improve security once the areas are abandoned.

Mr. Sharon's original disengagement plans was rejected by his Likud party.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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