Israeli Invasion Leaves 12 Palestinians Killed
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Middle East Correspondent
Gaza City, Feb. 11, 2004 — The latest and deadliest Israeli invasion into Palestinian territories left 12 Palestinians killed and more than 50 wounded, including teenagers, medical and security sources said. The first and bloodiest attack occurred when nearly a dozen Israeli tanks rolled before dawn into the Al Sheja'eya neighborhood, east of Gaza City, and started opening heavy gunfire at the Palestinian homes and passersby. Several Palestinian militants were reported confronting the invading force, using light weapons and home-made explosives. Explosions and sounds of whizzing bullets echoed throughout the densely populated neighborhood, as Palestinian citizens rushed to help the wounded who fell in the first wave of attack. Hospital officials in Gaza declared that the death toll rose to 12 Palestinians, after discovering two bodies under the rubble of a house demolished by the Israeli forces. Among the killed Palestinians was Mohammed Hillis, 18, son of Ahmad Hillis, leader of Yasser Arafat's Fateh movement in Gaza Strip, as well as Hani Abu Skheila, member of the military wing of Hamas movement, and a bodyguard of its founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin.
|Palestinians evacuate a wounded citizen from the area where Israeli forces are stationed. ?i>Courtesy AFP|
Saleh Al Arqan, 45, a local resident, said that the it was a "true battle zone", and that bullets were flying everywhere hysterically and explosions rocked the area. "I also noticed some civilian vehicles driving from behind the tanks and driving through the streets and alleyways, then some men came out of them and started shouting in Hebrew at some house owners. I know a bit of Hebrew myself, so I figured that they are evacuating some houses for the Israeli troops to use as sniping positions against the resistance fighters." The number wounded rose to 44, among were nine in critical condition. Among the wounded were at least three children who were killed by the random gunfire, doctors and eyewitnesses said. During the military operation in the Gaza neighborhood, a small earthquake shook the city of Gaza for some seconds. No casualties or damages were reported. In a separate invasion, Israeli tanks and D-9 armored bulldozers rolled into three neighborhoods of the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, amidst heavy gunfire, resulting in the killing of one Palestinian and the wounding of at least eight others, including children. The killed citizen died of wounds before arriving to the hospital, eyewitnesses and ambulance drivers said. Eyewitnesses confirmed that the bulldozers ripped up the asphalt of the streets and demolished a medical laboratory serving the local community.
|Gaza Strip Courtesy CNN|
Israeli military sources said that the invasion was meant to track down some tunnels used to smuggle weapons across the Egyptian-Palestinian borders, but the same sources had no initial comment over the Israeli operations in Gaza City. On its part, the Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the Israeli invasions in Rafah and Gaza, as Palestinian Minister of Negotiations Affairs, Dr. Sa'eb Ereikat, told reporters in Ramallah City that the Israeli aggression "undermines" the peace efforts and further hinders the implementation of the road map peace plan.
|Israeli Tank in Gaza Strip|
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Yasser AbuMoailek, a journalist and feature writer working for the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. He contributes to many circulations inlcuding the Seoul Times, as well as monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.