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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 13:30 GMT
Israel targets Gaza militant boss
Wreckage of car in Gaza after suspected missile strike
The men are said to have fled the car just before it exploded
The leader of a Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip has escaped an Israeli assassination attempt.

An unmanned Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car carrying the head of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, Jamal Abu Samhadana.

A PRC spokesman said the leader was not seriously injured, having leapt clear from the car before the missile struck. The Israeli military confirmed the air strike, saying its target had been behind a number of militant attacks.

The Israeli military earlier killed four Palestinians in Rafah it said were militants suspected of smuggling weapons across the border with Egypt.

Three bodies were recovered soon after midnight and a fourth was recovered at daybreak, sources said.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had pledged that Israel would "maintain the calm" in the absence of attacks by Palestinian militants.

It is Israel's first assassination attempt in the occupied territories since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died on 11 November.

Palestinian cabinet member Saeb Erekat said the "continuation of assassination attempts" undermines efforts to revive peace talks.

Assassination policy

The white vehicle carrying Mr Samhadana was hit by a missile fired from an unmanned spy plane, according to witnesses.

Two bodyguards travelling with him were also wounded, hospital officials said.

Last August an Israeli missile also hit a car Mr Samhadana was using but he escaped serious injury.

His militant group has been linked by security services to several attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers.

Palestinian militants have been waging a four-year intifada or uprising against Israel, whose forces have occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank since 1967.




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