Daylong battle in N. Gaza kills 23

Israel uses tanks and bulldozers

July 27, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

GAZA CITY -- Dozens of Israeli tanks and bulldozers, backed by missile-firing drone aircraft, pushed into the northern Gaza Strip yesterday, touching off a daylong battle that killed 23 Palestinians and wounded at least 70.

At least half of the Palestinian dead were fighters from groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

But Palestinian medical sources said two young sisters were among at least three children who were killed.

Throughout the day, in neighborhoods along the shifting urban front line, masked Palestinian fighters rushed toward the confrontation, many carrying rocket-propelled grenades and spools of wire for laying booby traps in the path of oncoming tanks.

A large crowd of young boys gathered to watch them, seemingly oblivious to the danger. In one case, a group of children helped hide the wiring of an explosive device.

Screaming ambulances rushed through the streets of Gaza City, and militant groups held emotional funeral marches, ferrying newly dead fighters to the cemetery for rapid burial according to Islamic custom.

The deaths pushed the toll to about 140 in fighting that began June 25, when militants crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing a third.

It was the highest daily toll in the past two weeks.

Last week, Israeli tanks drove to the heart of the Maghazi refugee camp in a two-day incursion that left 17 Palestinians dead.

The clashes took place as global attention and diplomatic efforts were largely focused on Lebanon, where nine Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday in battles with Hezbollah.

The day's violence ended nascent talk of a cease-fire.

"There's no talk at all about a truce anymore," said Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, "No way."

Another Islamic Jihad political leader, Khader Habib, pledged to take his group's fight deep into Israel.

Habib called on militants to "carry out martyrdom operations in the heart of Israeli cities." Habib said they would spare civilian lives as much as possible and focus on military targets.

A statement by the Israeli army said the operation, dubbed Samson's Pillars, was meant to "stop the launching of rockets into Israel and destroy terror infrastructure in the area."

It said yesterday's incursion was aimed at orchards used as launch sites for rockets that are fired daily at the nearby Israeli city of Ashkelon, and at several buildings used as weapons factories or rocket warehouses.

Palestinian militants fired 11 Qassam rockets into Israel yesterday, according to an Israeli army spokesman. One of the rockets struck in the industrial zone of the nearby city of Sterot, injuring one person and damaging a building.

The army said it would continue to "act with determination and employ all means at its disposal" to end the rocket attacks and rescue the captured soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

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.