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Palestinian militant leader killed in Gaza car blast

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Mar 31 (Reuters) A car explosion outside a mosque in Gaza today killed a top commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group often responsible for rocket attacks against Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

The PRC immediately accused Israel of assassinating the commander, whom is commonly known by the name Abu Youssef al-Quqa.

The Israeli army denied any involvement in the blast. ''It wasn't us,'' said an army spokeswoman. Israel has launched several recent air strikes in Gaza targeting militants.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas leader, said of the Gaza explosion: ''It means that the Israeli aggression will not stop. It means our resistance should continue.'' The explosion followed a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis in the West Bank yesterday. The suicide bombing was claimed by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group.

Witnesses said the Gaza car blast occurred near a mosque at the start of today's prayers.

One boy was wounded in the head by flying debris, though medics said the injury was not life threatening.

All that was left of the car after the blast was a mangled heap of charred metal.

The PRC, an umbrella group of militants in Gaza, has refused to recognise a March 2005 truce, citing Israel's non-compliance.

Quqa was one of two top commanders of the PRC.

''The blood of our leader will not be wasted. All Zionist blood is now an open target for us,'' PRC spokesman Abu Abir told Reuters.

Abu Abir said Quqa and other PRC leaders had recently attended a meeting to draw up plans to attack Israeli targets.

''He said he knew he was going to be assassinated soon,'' Abir said, adding that he suspected a Palestinian security agency was involved in the killing.

Reuters SY BD1738

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