GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Palestinian militants dug a tunnel under an Israeli army outpost in the heart of Gaza and exploded a huge bomb there Sunday, collapsing a concrete building and wounding at least five Israeli soldiers.
The army declined comment on reports that soldiers were also killed in the attack, for which Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility. The groups said they were avenging Israel’s killing of militants in recent weeks, including seven shot dead Saturday in the West Bank.
Early today, Israeli helicopters fired 10 missiles at two metal workshop in Gaza City, setting off fires and causing some damage, but no major injury. Israel said the workshops were being used by Hamas and other militant groups to make weapons, including homemade rockets.
As Israeli ambulances evacuated the wounded from Sunday’s bomb attack, Palestinian militants kept firing at the outpost, drawing heavy Israeli fire from machine guns and tanks, witnesses said. In a nearby Palestinian village, a police officer and a 15-year-old boy were killed by Israeli fire, medics said.
Militants said they dug a 1,000-foot tunnel to reach the outpost at the Gush Katif junction, near Gaza’s largest bloc of Israeli settlements. The outpost is protected by reinforced concrete.
In a videotaped claim of responsibility, Al Aqsa said it used 3,300 pounds of explosives, though in an earlier phone call to The Associated Press it said 330 pounds were used.
In Gaza City, about 2,000 people rushed into the streets to celebrate, among them about 100 armed men.
Earlier, in the West Bank, militants threatened revenge for seven armed men killed by Israel on Saturday in the city of Nablus.
Nayef Abu Sharkh, 45, the West Bank’s top fugitive and an Al Aqsa founder, was among those killed when soldiers hurled grenades into an underground hideout in Nablus’ old city.
The army withdrew from Nablus on Sunday, after four days of searches. The fugitives killed, among them several members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, had been the main targets of the operation.