GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel attacked Palestinian security buildings for the second straight day Saturday, as army helicopters fired missiles at targets in a 1:30 a.m. raid. The action was in retaliation for Palestinian mortar attacks on Jewish settlements.
Witnesses and Palestinian security officials said the assault caused extensive damage at a refugee camp. No injured were reported.
Palestinian security buildings throughout the Gaza Strip had been evacuated Friday after an Israeli F-16 jet struck a police compound near Gaza City early in the day, injuring 20 people.
The attacks meant that Israel is resuming military action against Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority after a lull Israel said was intended to give the Palestinian leader a chance to crack down on terrorism.
The missiles hit three buildings belonging to Palestinian military intelligence and Force 17 – Arafat's personal guard – at the security complex inside the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, according to Palestinian security officials and witnesses.
The missiles created large holes in the roofs of the buildings and knocked down some walls, witnesses said. Security officials who had worked in the building looked through the remaining rubble, searching for furniture and belongings.
The five mortar shells fired at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip late Friday injured no one, according to the army. The army also said the mortar attacks should have been prevented by Palestinian security officials.
"These groups are directly and indirectly responsible for the mortar shellings," the army said in a statement.
Later Saturday, three more mortar shells were fired toward Jewish settlements in two separate incidents in the central Gaza Strip, the army said. A spokesman added that there was no damage and no one was injured.
Also Saturday, the death toll from last week’s suicide bombing rose by one, as another Israeli died from his wounds. The total number of victims from those bombings and another a day later in Haifa now stands at 26. A Palestinian who was injured last week from Israeli shelling in the Gaza Strip also died from his injuries Saturday.
In retaliation for the suicide bombings, Israeli attacks destroyed three of Arafat's helicopters and hit his Ramallah headquarters just yards from where he was working.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the U.S. refusal to condemn Israel's action would only encourage Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to continue the strikes. The United States has asked Israel to exercise restraint when it target parts of the Palestinian territories previously, but has declined to criticize retaliation in the wake of the latest suicide bombings.
"We urge President Bush, for the sake of peace, to say to Sharon, 'You don't have the green light, there is no military solution for this,'" Erekat said Saturday.
Palestinian officials say they have arrested 180 Islamic militants in a crackdown that began after the suicide attacks. Israel calls the sweep a sham, saying it has focused on low-level operators and left the planners of attacks at large. Israeli officials are demanding Arafat do more to stop the violence.
"We are not yet sure that there is a strategic change in the policy of Arafat," said Sharon aide Avi Pazner.
A Palestinian official said that in the West Bank town of Jenin, where the prison was destroyed by Israeli strikes, 15 suspects were being detained in apartments; in Tulkarem, six were held in apartments because security headquarters had been attacked, the official said.
Israel has promised a U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni, that its forces will not attack Palestinian jails, Sharon adviser Daniel Ayalon said Saturday.
As the violence continued, Zinni brought top Israeli and Palestinian security officials together for four hours of talks in Tel Aviv on Friday.
The meeting was so tense that it would have ended in a fist fight between if the Americans had not intervened, the Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam reported.
Positions seemed to be hardening on both sides.
A Palestinian official said his team had reiterated its view that security forces could not act effectively against terrorists while they themselves were under attack by Israel.
Israel renewed its demand that Arafat sharpen his crackdown on terrorists before military strikes cease, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another meeting was scheduled for Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.