JERUSALEM – Israel fired two surface-to-surface missiles Wednesday into a Palestinian security building outside Gaza City. The attack came after Palestinian militants set off five bombs in two days.
The missiles slammed into the one-story office of the Force 17 security service in Beit Hanoun, northeast of Gaza City, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and gutting two rooms, officials said.
Palestinians had evacuated the building before the attack, and the only person hurt was a civilian on the street hit by flying debris, the officials said.
"We consider it part of the continuous war against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, but we will not kneel down," said Abu Zaid, a colonel in Force 17.
The Israeli military said the attack was in response to Palestinian mortar fire in the Gaza Strip. The military said two mortars landed on Jewish settlements Wednesday.
Israel has frequently targeted Palestinian security buildings, saying that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his security forces have failed to prevent militants from attacking Israel.
Palestinian militants set off five bombs in Jerusalem in the previous two days, including the suicide bombing Tuesday that left 20 wounded.
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Arafat were trying Wednesday to arrange truce talks, possibly next week in Egypt, sources said.
The two men, who have offices only a few miles apart, have been talking about such a meeting for more than two weeks, but their efforts have been set back by political tensions and ongoing violence.
Peres and Arafat both plan to attend an international economic conference that starts Friday on the shores of Lake Como near Milan, Italy. Both sides have raised the possibility of meeting on the sidelines of the conference, but Peres said he would prefer a less public venue.
"We shall try to continue our efforts to achieve a cease-fire," Peres said. "The preparations are going on, and also we would like to have our meeting in a more isolated place, without so many lenses of televisions and pens of journalists."
Arafat's spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh said the meeting probably would not be set until after Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday.
Palestinian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Taba, Egypt, was a likely site for the talks.
Arafat toured elementary schools in Gaza City, but made no reference to a meeting with Peres. He denounced "the military escalation against our people and this very dangerous siege imposed on our cities and towns."
"We will raise the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem whether people like it or not," Arafat said, a reference to the Palestinian demand for a future capital in east Jerusalem.
Peres and Arafat have met twice in recent months, but were unable to halt the Mideast violence, now in its 12th month. Prospects for a breakthrough this time are also regarded as slim, but no other diplomatic initiatives are in the works.
In Tuesday's bombing, the Palestinian assailant was disguised as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in a skullcap, white shirt and black pants, witnesses said. He carried a nail-studded bomb in a backpack.
A passer-by alerted police to the nervous-looking suspect, sending two paramilitary officers chasing after him. Border policeman Guy Mughrabi said that when he and his partner yelled at the man to stop, he reached for his backpack and detonated the bomb.