Gaza, Sept. 27 (Reuters): Israel said today a Palestinian militant at the top of its most-wanted list survived a helicopter attack on his car, a strike that wounded civilians and drew international condemnation.
Science minister Matan Vilnai confirmed Palestinian reports that Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif was injured but alive after missiles blew up the car on a crowded street in Gaza City yesterday.
Two other members of Hamas, a radical Islamic group that has carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, were killed in the attack. Palestinian hospital officials said 27 people, many of them youngsters, were hurt. Some 12,000 people, many screaming for revenge, marched in funeral processions for the two men through the dusty streets of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas vowed more bombings, raising the spectre of a sharp rise in violence at a time when Washington wants to keep a lid on Israeli-Palestinian tensions ahead of a possible US military assault on Iraq.
“The reports I received from our people were that (Deif) was indeed injured but did not suffer a life-threatening injury,” Vilnai told Israeli Army Radio.
Israeli media reports speculated the attempt to kill him was timed to coincide with the second anniversary this week of the Palestinian uprising for independence.