Israel Launches Rocket Attack on PA Buildings After Lynch Killing

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Israel launched a helicopter rocket attack on Palestinian Authority buildings in Ramallah, including PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's offices and a police station, where earlier Thursday two Israeli reserve soldiers were killed by a mob of angry Arabs.

According to reports coming from a live PA television broadcast both buildings were Arafat reportedly was at his Gaza headquarters when the Israelis opened fire. Further details are unclear at this time.

After the soldiers were killed Thursday morning - lynched and burned after taking a wrong turn into Ramallah -- Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel would know how to respond.

Shortly before the helicopter attack began, prominent PA politician Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC Israel had warned the PA to evacuate all civilians from PA government buildings in the town as it planned to "shell them from the air."

Ashrawi said the warning caused consternation in Ramallah, a PA-ruled town north of Jerusalem.

"My home is close to the headquarters of the president [Yasser Arafat] and of the government ... and security forces. Israel has delivered an ultimatum in the morning. They said they should evacuate all these places from civilians and a little while ago they informed officially that they are going to bomb these places, they are going to shell them from the air.

"The helicopters that have been flying overhead are now joined by ... spy planes [unmanned drones] that are circling the area. The town is in a state of complete siege. Nobody is walking in the streets anywhere with the exception of a few Palestinian police or security people who are expecting the worst now since we have been told that these places will be the targets."

The Israel reserve soldiers killed earlier apparently made a wrong turn while looking for their base, and ended up in Ramallah. Eyewitnesses said they were "kidnapped" and taken to a police station. A large group of protestors subsequently stormed the building, killed them and set their bodies on fire.

The whereabouts of two other soldiers with them remain unclear.

Ashrawi claimed the murdered men were members of an Israeli "assassination squad" which had been agitating in the area. Their deaths at the hands of "young men" had been the result of "Palestinian anger" because of the violence of the past two weeks.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow