Office of UN envoy damaged in Israeli jet attack

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The Independent Online

Israeli warplanes attacked bases of Yasser Arafat's Force 17 presidential guard in Gaza last night, severely damaging the offices of the UN peace process co-ordinator, Terje Larsen, and injuring two of his staff.

Palestinian sources reported that at least 10 of their men had been wounded.

The F-16s were sent in retaliation forattacks at the weekend in which four Israelis were killed. Palestinians had also fired Kassam rockets from Gaza to Israel for the first time.

Bruce Jones, a UN official, told The Independent: "I heard a loud and heavy explosion very close to our offices, which are about 50 yards from Force 17. My office windows were blown out, and I was knocked under my desk."

Mr Larsen, a Norwegian diplomat and architect of the 1993 Oslo peace accord, condemned the air strike. "It is outrageous that Israel deployed weapons of heavy tonnage in such close proximity to civilian areas and UN facilities." Israel said the F-16s did not deliberately attack the UN building.

Earlier, Hamas gunmen sprayed automatic gunfire at a snack bar near the Israeli army's southern command headquarters in Beersheba, killing two female soldiers.

Off-duty soldiers having lunch near by shot dead the assailants, and sappers later detonated an explosive belt.

Palestinians also fired three Kassam missiles into the fields of a Negev kibbutz.