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Israeli army kills two in beachfront assault.

Two armed Palestinians in divers wetsuits and fins emerged from the Mediterranean and fired toward a beachfront Israeli settlement before being killed by Israeli troops in a gun battle, the army said yesterday.

Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the failed attack on the Tel Katifa settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has threatened to carry out attacks on Israelis to avenge the assassination of its founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

The settlement attack 'is the beginning of earthshaking operations to come,' a Hamas leaflet said.

The two men launched the attack shortly before midnight.

They fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades from the beach toward the Israeli army post guarding the settlement and soldiers returned fire, killing both attackers.

Initially the army said three Palestinians were shot, but only found two bodies after daybreak.

In August 2002, militants attempted to infiltrate another settlement, Dugit, from the sea, but were killed before they reached shore.

Tensions have increased significantly since Israel assassinated Yassin on Monday. The group has vowed bloody revenge, saying even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a target.

At the United Nations, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on Thursday that would have condemned Israel for the assassination.

In a rare video-taped statement, given to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV channel, a masked man declared: 'We say to the pig Sharon that we will pound your fortresses and make you curse yourself 1,000 times for merely thinking of assassinating our leaders and symbols.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2004
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