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Israeli Missile Kills 10 In Crowded Gaza Street

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Israeli Missile Kills 10 In Crowded Gaza Street

Target of Strike Disputed; 3 Others Dead

By John Ward Anderson

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, October 8, 2002; Page A01

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip, Oct. 7 -- Israeli military operations, including a missile attack in a crowded street here, killed 13 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip today, generating an outpouring of grief and vows of revenge.

Ten people were killed and about 80 were injured by the missile, which was fired from a helicopter gunship in Khan Younis at the southwestern end of the Gaza Strip. Israeli military officials said the missile was aimed at a large group of Palestinian gunmen who were firing at troops as they were withdrawing from positions they had taken during an early morning raid by Israeli tanks.

Three other Palestinians were killed in the incursion before the missile attack.

Three more people were shot later this morning at the local Nasser Hospital by Israeli soldiers stationed atop an observation post in a nearby Jewish settlement, hospital officials said. They said the wounded included a 14-year-old boy shot in the neck and a hospital maintenance worker who was declared brain dead after being shot in the head. Israeli officials said the firing may have come in response to a mortar volley and rifle rounds fired at a Jewish settlement from the vicinity of the hospital.

Palestinian fighters, meanwhile, used the flare-up of violence as an opportunity to settle scores with local police, security officials said.

A group of 20 men from the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, who were disguised in Palestinian police uniforms, kidnapped a Palestinian police commander at a bogus checkpoint and killed him for his role in the killings of three people at a Hamas demonstration in support of Osama bin Laden in October 2001. That killing set off a street battle in Gaza City and a clash at a refugee camp between Hamas and Palestinian security forces in which four more people were killed and 30 wounded, Palestinian police said.

The Israeli attack was the deadliest in the Gaza Strip since July, when an Israeli bomb killed 15 people. It left Palestinians here groping for explanations as to why Israeli troops have intensified operations in the Gaza Strip in the last few weeks.

"This was an excessive and totally unwarranted use of power by the Israelis," said Ziad Abu Amr, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip. "The Israelis didn't find significant weapons or explosives, and how much damage can these people [in the street] do firing on tanks and helicopters?"

The attack occurred during a visit by Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, who is seeking to create momentum for peace talks based on the most recent international initiative. Solana said he was shocked by the loss of life but vowed to push forward with his mission.

"Israel has a right to defend itself," said a National Security Council spokesman in Washington, Sean McCormack. "Israel should, however, consider carefully the consequences of its actions. That includes the need to take every measure to prevent the loss of innocent life in fighting terror."

A Hamas spokesman, Abdel Aziz Rantissi, told the Associated Press: "Everyone should know that as our people were not safe in Khan Younis, so Israelis will not be safe in Tel Aviv. We will strike everywhere."

Abu Amr noted that before today, more than 17 Palestinians were killed and 60 injured in the Gaza Strip in the last three weeks during almost daily Israeli military operations. He said Palestinian analysts believe Israel is trying to "tranquilize, pacify and destroy parts of the Gaza Strip before the war with Iraq starts, so when it starts, they have a free hand" to focus on Iraq.

Israeli military officials said the attacks on Khan Younis -- the second-largest city in the Gaza Strip with about 100,000 residents -- targeted neighborhoods considered strongholds of Hamas, a radical Islamic group that has asserted responsibility for many of the deadliest suicide bombing attacks against Israel in the last two years. The operations involved about 40 tanks accompanied by several bulldozers and supported by helicopters. They began about midnight and continued until about daybreak.

"What we're trying to do is go into these strongholds," said an Israeli military spokesman, adding that in the last 10 days, 18 mortar shells were fired from one neighborhood at the nearby Israeli settlements of Gush Katif. "If we don't go to where they are, they're going to get better and bolder and stronger."

Israeli military officials said that as their troops began to withdraw, they came under heavy attack from Palestinians and returned fire. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer issued a statement saying most of the Palestinians who died in the assault were "armed men who shot at our forces."

But residents and Hamas officials denied that, saying most victims were civilians, many of whom had gone outside after the Israeli tanks withdrew to see if their neighbors needed help.

In the Al Katiba area, where most of the deaths and injuries occurred, residents said about 10 tanks pulled into the streets and alleys about 1 a.m. as Israeli troops occupied an apartment building and engaged in occasionally heavy firefights with Palestinians.

Saed Kilani, who was recuperating at home with a wounded thigh, said residents of the complex were corralled by Israeli troops in his second-floor apartment while soldiers took up positions elsewhere in the building. But when the soldiers left about three hours later, he said, they did not return anyone's identification cards.

"When they left, we heard yelling outside and we thought they had withdrawn, so we went into the street, thinking maybe they had thrown our identification cards there. There were hundreds of people standing in the street," he said.

Without any warning, he said, "There was firing out of the sky and a huge explosion."

Ibrahim Abdul Hady, who lives in a building next door and who had five brothers injured by the missile, said about 25 militants were mingling with about 175 people from the neighborhood when the missile slammed into the center of the street.

Mohammed Abu Dalal, director of the emergency room at Nasser Hospital, said 13 people died and 70 were treated at his hospital for injuries sustained in multiple Israeli attacks, while 10 other people were treated for injuries at other hospitals. One woman, Rahimah Salaman, 50, died in the attacks; the others killed and injured were men and boys. The dead ranged in age from 17 to 30, while the wounded ranged from 8 to 75, hospital officials said.

At about 8:30 a.m., Dalal said, three people in an outside stairwell at the hospital were shot by Israeli soldiers manning an observation post at a nearby Israeli settlement. An Israeli military spokesman said of the incident: "It's possible in the area of the hospital there was an exchange of fire with soldiers, or it could have been in response to mortars launched in the general area of the hospital."

Correspondent Molly Moore in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


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what a shame....like the other incident a few weeks ago where 17 people died, more than half of which were children...

both sides need to be blown off this planet at this point for all i'm concerned...maybe this mid-east bullshit will end

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Originally posted by dnice35

both sides need to be blown off this planet at this point for all i'm concerned...maybe this mid-east bullshit will end

I seriously doubt this will ever end, I say they should just let them go at it. and whoever remains so be it. I would root for Israel though.

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Originally posted by raver_mania

I seriously doubt this will ever end, I say they should just let them go at it. and whoever remains so be it. I would root for Israel though.

Yeah, but only if the US withdraws all its support!

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