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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Israel destroys Gaza 'bomb factory'
Destroyed Gaza building
The building was empty at the time of the attack
Israeli aircraft have destroyed a Palestinian building in the southern Gaza Strip, which the army says was being used as a laboratory for making explosives.

Eyewitnesses said they saw several Israeli Apache helicopters and an F-16 fighter plane in the area at the time of the attack on Qarara, near the town of Khan Younis.

The three-storey building was empty at the time but at least five Palestinians were wounded by flying debris.

In the ensuing chaos, a man on trial in a nearby courthouse for allegedly collaborating with Israel in the killing of five militants was killed by relatives, a judge said.

The air attack was the first such air raid on a Palestinian area for several weeks.

The building was formerly home to a Hamas militant, Ahmed Abdel Wahab, who was killed five months ago in an abortive attack on a Jewish settlement, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

An uncle of the Islamic militant, who also lived in the house, is a Hamas activist wanted by Israel, the paper said.

Explosives manufactured

In a statement, the Israeli army said the building had been a laboratory for making explosives that were used recently against its forces in Gaza.

It said the building was also a meeting place for members of Hamas.

The raid may also have been a response to overnight Palestinian mortar attacks on the nearby Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, the Associated Press news agency said. No-one was hurt in the incident.

Hamas gunmen
Hamas holds rallies in the Gaza Strip
The man killed in the courthouse - named by the judge as Abed al-Hai al-Sababy - had been accused of helping Israel to kill five Hamas members in southern Gaza last month.

Witnesses said some police officers rushed outside when the air strike happened and a relative of one of the dead Hamas members entered the courtroom and shot the defendant.

Presiding judge Abdel Aziz Wadi said: "During the Israeli attack, angry Palestinian families went inside the court. One member of the (militant's) family killed Al-Salaby."

In other violence, a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli troops on Sunday near the Jewish settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security and hospital sources said.

A 24-year-old Palestinian was also shot dead in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus on the West Bank. The army said the man had tried to attack soldiers.

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The BBC's Claire Marshall
"Eyewitnesses say two Apache helicopters and an F-16 were involved"

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14 Jul 02 | Middle East
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