Refugee camp blast kills 3 Palestinians

Explosion injures a dozen during clashes between militants, Israeli troops


JERUSALEM - Three Palestinians were killed and more than a dozen wounded yesterday in a large explosion that was apparently set off by Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza Strip.

The blast occurred during early morning clashes between the militants and the Israeli military. Troops entered the Rafah refugee camp in armored vehicles as part of a search for tunnels used to smuggle weapons.

The Israelis and the militants exchanged fire, but the military said it had nothing to do with the explosion.

Video footage taken by Associated Press Television News showed a group of Palestinians placing a detonator in an alley. A few minutes later, the powerful blast occurred on a nearby road in the crowded neighborhood. The target appeared to be an armored Israeli bulldozer, but all the casualties were Palestinian.

All three of the Palestinians killed were young men, and the injured included several children, according to workers at Rafah's hospital.

The Israelis destroyed at least 10 houses in the refugee camp, according to Palestinian witnesses and security officials. The military said it demolished buildings that had been used as cover by militants firing on soldiers.

The military said it had not found any tunnels and that the operation was continuing last night. Palestinians use the tunnels to bring weapons from neighboring Egypt, the military says.

In another development, the militant group Hamas took the unusual step of issuing a videotape saying it would step up rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sederot if the Israeli military did not withdraw from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun.

"Residents of Sederot, stop your army's crimes and get it out of Beit Hanun, or else you will be the ones paying the price," a masked gunman said in the video shown on Al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab satellite channel.

Israeli troops entered Beit Hanun at the end of June, after rockets killed two Israelis in Sederot, just outside Gaza's perimeter fence.

Despite the Israeli incursion, the militants have managed to fire about 40 Qassam rockets over the past month. Palestinians have unleashed more than 300 Qassam rockets in recent years, but they are inaccurate and rarely cause serious damage or casualties.

Palestinian factions previously issued videotapes made by suicide bombers shortly before they carried out their attacks. But the factions halted the practice when Israel stepped up its retaliatory measures, including tearing down the houses of the bombers.

Yesterday's broadcast was believed to be the first time Hamas has issued a video warning of future attacks. Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombings against Israel and is responsible for most of the rocket fire.

Also yesterday, King Abdullah II of Jordan criticized the Palestinian leadership for what he described as changing demands.

"We want the Palestinian leadership to declare clearly what it wants and not surprise us every now and then with some decisions or by accepting things that it did not accept before," the king said on Al-Arabiya.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.