Friday, July 21, 2006

Gaza Watch #4: With focus on Lebanon, Israelis keep hitting Gaza

Army threatens to hit homes used to store arms

The Daily Star 21 July 2006

Thursday pursued its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, where it has killed nearly 100 people in three weeks, and warned civilians that every home storing weaponry was now a target. "The life of all those who are holding military equipment and ammunition in their homes is in danger and they should leave the premises for their safety and that of their families," warned Israeli leaflets dropped on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Army "will strike and destroy all sites and buildings housing ammunition and military materiel." Though similar leaflets have been dropped on Gaza before, it was the most explicit warning that civilians' homes could be directly targeted. A spokeswoman said the army had "specific information some houses are storing weapons" in Gaza. "Palestinian terrorist organizations have been using the civilian population as human shields," she claimed. "We're warning the civilian population because we don't want them to get hurt ... to stay away from such houses and stay away from terrorists," she said.

An Israeli air strike killed one militant as he was preparing to launch an anti-tank rocket at Israeli troops in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, an army spokesman said. Israeli troops, who have been operating in the camp since Wednesday, earlier shot dead another Palestinian gunman.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops killed 15 Palestinians, including seven civilians, in clashes in Gaza and the occupied West Bank in one of the worst days of violence since Israel launched an offensive to free an abducted soldier.Troops also detained several Palestinian security men during Wednesday's operation in Nablus, an Israeli military source said.

Israeli bulldozers then tore down a building there used by the Hamas-led Interior Ministry. About 60 Palestinians, including 10 children, were also wounded in the clashes in densely populated central Gaza Wednesday, medics said.

The Israeli campaign in the impoverished Gaza Strip has already killed 97 Palestinians. But one of the militant groups involved in the raid that seized the Israeli solidier said the Jewish state's campaign was a failure. "The soldier is still missing ... And the rockets are continuing to strike. They [Israel] will pay a dear price for killing our civilians and fighters," said Abu Mujahed, a Popular Resistance Committees spokesman.

Israeli tanks Thursday were still positioned on the edge of Maghazi camp, said local Palestinian security sources. Two make shift rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip exploded in Israel's southern desert town of Sderot Thursday, causing some material damage but no casualties, the army said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya has accused Israel of trying to "completely reshape" the Middle East through its offensives. But appeals for Israeli restraint have fallen on deaf ears and the US, Israel's main ally, vetoed a UN resolution urging Israel to stop the offensive.

The humanitarian situation of the 1.4 million people living in Gaza has badly deteriorated since the West suspended direct aid to the democratically-elected government, plunging the territory deeper into financial crisis. - Agencies

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