HEBRON, West Bank – Responding to a Palestinian attack, Israeli armored vehicles Thursday moved into Palestinian neighborhoods in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron in one of Israel's deepest incursions yet into Palestinian territory.
Fifteen Palestinians and four Israeli soldiers were wounded in shooting before and during the incursion, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli military said just one soldier was lightly wounded and it couldn't confirm any Palestinian injuries.
The thrust into Hebron came during a day of violence in which the Israel fired missiles at a car carrying a suspected Palestinian militant in the town of Nablus, but missed the target. Israel said Jihad al-Mussaimi was responsible for several attacks against Israeli citizens.
Also Thursday, 11-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud Zourab was shot dead in the Gaza Strip during a clash with Israeli troops following the funeral of a Palestinian killed a day earlier, Palestinian witnesses and doctors at the Khan Yunis hospital said.
The Israeli forces went into Hebron's hilltop neighborhood of Abu Sneineh after two Israeli brothers, one 11 years old, were shot and wounded, Jewish settlers and Palestinian security sources said.
Israeli forces destroyed two buildings and then withdrew, said Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz.
"There was no intention of staying," he told The Associated Press, adding that the incursion was in response to Palestinian gunfire.
The move into Hebron is considered extremely sensitive -- about 500 Jewish settlers, who have come under frequent attack, live in the center of the city, surrounded by some 130,000 Palestinians. A large Israeli military contingent guards the settlers.
Jewish settlers said the brothers were standing on the balcony of their house when a bullet struck one of them in the hand and then penetrated the chest of the 11-year-old.
Hebron settlers have been pressing the Israeli government to take control of the Abu Sneineh section because of frequent gunfire from Palestinian militants at the Jewish enclave below. In March, a 10-month-old Jewish girl was killed by a gunshot.
Palestinians have been demanding that the settlers leave Hebron and blame them for attacks on their property.
It was the second time in less than two weeks that Israeli forces entered into a Palestinian-controlled city on the West Bank. On Aug. 14 Israeli tanks rolled into Jenin and leveled a police station. That Jenin incursion following two suicide bombings in less than a week.
Mahmoud Zourab, the 11-year-old Palestinian, was shot in the chest while Palestinian youths were throwing stones at an Israeli settlement after the burial of Mahmoud Jasser, one of seven Palestinians killed Wednesday.
The Israeli military said that during the incident, Palestinians tried to tear down the fence around the Israeli settlement, and that soldiers fired warning shots and then fired at demonstrators' legs. The army was still "checking to see if the Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli fire," its statement said.
In the attack against al-Mussaimi, the suspected Palestinian militant, Israel's military tracked down his car in the West Bank town of Nablus and fired the missiles. It was the second failed Israeli attack against a suspected militant in two days.
Israel's military said in a statement that al-Mussaimi, had been imprisoned from 1979-87 for involvement in bombings, and in recent years he was "responsible for a long line of shootings and bombing attacks against soldiers and Israeli citizens."
Palestinians said Al-Mussaimi is a local leader in Yasser Arafat's Fatah group and until recently an officer in the Nablus police force.
The first missile hit the ground in front of the car, spraying the vehicle with shrapnel. Al-Mussaimi, who suffered injuries to his right leg, managed to jump out before the second missile hit the car. Four people were hurt.
Since the Mideast violence began last September, Israel has killed more than 50 Palestinians in targeted attacks against militants. Israel says the militants belong to organizations that have carried out suicide attacks against Israelis that have claimed dozens of lives.
Many of the Israeli raids have been carried out with Apache helicopters, though the Israelis have also employed exploding car headrests, booby-trapped telephones and snipers.
"While we miss today, we may catch them the next time," said Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "The continuous pressure on these individuals disrupts their operations, puts them off balance, requires them to constantly watch themselves."
In a statement, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the helicopter attacks "showed (Israel's) ability to reach its targets." Ben-Eliezer discussed area tensions with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a phone call Thursday, the statement said.
In most cases, the Israelis have killed their intended target, and in several instances, Palestinian women, children and other bystanders have also lost their lives.
In Gaza City, several thousand Palestinians marched through the streets in a funeral procession for Bilal al-Ghoul, a 21-year-old Palestinian activist killed in an Israeli helicopter strike Wednesday that targeted his father.
"Revenge, revenge," shouted the crowd, while members of the Palestinian security forces fired their automatic rifles into the air.