GAZA, March 4 (UPI) -- The death count in Palestinian-Israeli violence spiraled Monday as a gunman in Tel Aviv's center opened fire with an M16 soon after Israeli F-16 warplanes struck Palestinian Authority security offices next to Arafat's West Bank and Gaza headquarters.
The Palestinian gunman killed three Israelis and wounded 25 in a Tel Aviv restaurant district, police said.
The attacker was killed.
Palestinian medical sources said Israeli soldiers killed 22 Palestinians Monday during an intensive Israeli army air and ground operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The shooting followed a day of fighting that included an Israeli F-16 attack on PA security offices, bloody raids on Palestinian refugee camps, an assassination attempt and Israeli targeting of a Red Crescent ambulance.
The Israeli warplanes targeted security offices located in Yasser Arafat's West Bank and Gaza headquarters, hitting the towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah in the West Bank. In addition, the Israeli army raided Jenin refugee camp in northern West Bank and failed an attempt to assassinate a Hamas leader with tanks shells in Ramallah. They killed his family in the targeted car, sources said. Hussein Kuacke, was not hurt but his wife and three of his children were killed after one of the tanks' shells destroyed the car.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman apologized for "hitting innocent civilian Palestinians." The spokesman said a military force spotted "a vehicle with armed Palestinian policemen." A tank fired at the car and a civilian vehicle that was nearby was hit, he said.
In another incident, Palestinian security sources said Musa Soliman, chief of emergency for a Red Crescent medical crew, was killed while in a Palestinian ambulance that drove into the West Bank town of Jenin. The sources said Israeli tanks near Jenin fired a shell that hit the ambulance, killing Soliman and three other medical personnel.
"Israel is becoming a real state of terrorism, practicing the most awful crimes against humanity," Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said of their deaths.
The Israeli army spokesman said the Red Crescent ambulance came from an area of heavy fire and drove quickly toward the soldiers. The soldiers fired light arms "in self defense" and the ambulance exploded, he said. Israel previously has said Palestinian ambulances are used to hide armed militants.
A spokesman for Yasser Arafat's Force 17 guards told United Press International that intensive Israeli air strikes destroyed the al Mukataa security offices in Bethlehem and a building used by PA military intelligence in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
The Ramallah building hit by missile-firing Apache helicopters is next door to where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is confined in his main headquarters. Palestinian sources said that Arafat is safe. No other injuries were reported, said the sources.
The Force 17 spokesman said that an Israeli naval vessel fired a rocket at Arafat's headquarters on Gaza beachside, adding that the rocket hit the garden yard of the headquarters. No injuries reported.
Chief of Palestinian public security Abdel Razaq El Majayda said the Israeli military is targeting official buildings of the PA and it is causing severe damages in the West Bank and Gaza.
"It is a blind Israeli policy that would never bring the Israelis peace and security," Al Majayda said. "This policy that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is adopting is a dangerous policy of escalation."
During Monday night's attacks, witnesses said at least three F-16 warplanes flew over Bethlehem for 10 minutes, then fired six missiles targeting the main PA security complex known as "Al Mukataa" belong to the PA police and public security. They said that they heard six huge explosions, and then they saw dust in the air, flames and smoke coming from the targets. No injuries were yet reported.
The bombs that blasted the Palestinian security complex in Bethlehem shook buildings in neighboring Jerusalem. The Israel Defense Forces' spokesman said the raid was carried out "in retaliation for the recent day's murderous attacks."
The spokesman was referring to Saturday night's suicide bombing that killed 10 civilians in Jerusalem, a raid on a military roadblock in the West Bank Sunday that killed 10 more soldiers and civilians, and shooting attacks that killed another two Israelis.
The Israeli government decided Sunday to intensify its military pressure on the PA and other Palestinian militant groups, especially Fatah armed wing al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The Israeli air strikes on Bethlehem, Ramallah and Gaza are a continuation of the Israeli government decision to respond to the series of attacks carried out by Palestinian militants against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
In Washington, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak talked of inviting Arafat and Sharon to a summit meeting in Sharm el Sheikh. According to Channel 1 TV, Sharon said he would go, but Arafat cannot leave the West Bank town of Ramallah because Israel has confined him there. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not allow Arafat out for the Arab summit in Beirut at the end of this month.
Leaders of the more moderate Labor Party, Sharon's main coalition partner, want to continue talks with the Palestinians. Labor's Chairman, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, told his Knesset faction he wants to increase pressure on the Palestinians but the goal is "to get the (Palestinian) Authority to act against terror."
"I do not intend to occupy (Palestinian areas) nor to topple (the PA)," he said.
It was not immediately clear if there is a majority in Labor for a breakaway. The party's secretary general, Minister without Portfolio Raanan Cohen, told United Press International Sunday that now is not the time for such a step.
Earlier Monday, a visibly combative Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he wanted to hit the Palestinians forcefully and increase their casualties to make them realize "it is impossible to achieve political goals through terror."
Sharon spoke at a closed session of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and then to reporters at the Knesset's dining room while aircraft, tanks and ground troops struck Palestinian areas and as Israelis were burying 22 people killed in Palestinian attacks in the preceding 36 hours.
"We are in a tough war against a cruel and bloodthirsty enemy," he told the Knesset.
In his closed briefing to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Sharon said that Sunday night the Ministerial Committee on National Security authorized "continuous military pressure" on terrorist groups and the Palestinian Authority.
"Severe military steps must be taken to reach the negotiation (stage)," he said, according to a participant's notes read to United Press International.
The measures involved raiding Palestinian refugee camps, areas the Israelis had avoided during the 18-month intifada. Sharon said the refugee camps have become "a center for terrorist activity." Israel has so far penetrated two of them.
"The Palestinian Authority never went in there. That's why our plan will be (carried out) also in other refugee camps. There won't be a place where they can operate fearlessly," he said.
Sharon then spoke to reporters at the Knesset members' dining room, an area where tape recording is prohibited but where notes may be taken. According to reporters' notes, Sharon said the Palestinians "must be dealt a heavy blow. They should get it from every direction. Whoever wants to negotiate with them must first hit them hard, so that it will be clear to them they can achieve nothing through terror. If it is not made clear to them that they have been overpowered, we will not be unable to return to proper negotiations."
According to Channel 2 TV he said: "I don't expect the war will make Arafat act against terror. There is no chance this will happen. He is the father of terror, the one who gave birth to it. They simply have to be beaten. We are in a situation of either they (win) or we (do). We are with the back to the wall and this is a war!"
Some of the Labor ministers seem to have qualms about the escalation.
"It is not clear to me where we are heading. I thought I knew," Science Minister Matan Vilnay said.
Sharon and the parliamentarians also discussed a plan to establish buffer zones around the West Bank. One zone, 5-kilometers deep, would run along the pre-1967 boundaries and in some areas contain obstacles, he said. Another zone would run along the Jordan Valley and be a wedge between the West Bank and Jordan, he said. It should be 15- to 20-kilometers wide in the north and about 10-kilometers wide in the south.
Many Israelis have been pressing for a line that would prevent Palestinian militants from crossing over, but the head of the centrist opposition Shinui Party, Tommy Lapid slammed the current plan. Lapid said the envisaged buffer zone would contain 108 Palestinian settlements with a population of 400,000, almost a quarter of the West Bank's population.
"The wall would be behind them, so what is the buffer zone for?" he asked.