3 November 2006
A Palestinian woman was killed and another 10 were
reported wounded when Israeli forces today opened fire on
a group preparing to act as a human shield for militants
in a Gaza mosque. Dozens of women were gathering outside
the mosque in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip after an
appeal on a local radio station. At least a dozen gunmen
had taken refuge in the building after the Israeli army
launched its largest Gaza offensive in months in an
attempt to stop militants launching rocket attacks on
nearby Jewish settlements over the border.
Television pictures showed at least 50 women making their
way along a pavement when shots could be heard ringing
out. They started to flee in terror and at least two women
were left lying on the ground.
Witnesses said one woman, aged about 40, was killed, and
10 others were wounded. The Israeli army said troops
spotted two militants hiding in the crowd of women and
Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers surrounded
the building when militants took refuge there after two
days of fighting, the Israeli military and Palestinian
security officials said. A large group of women protesters
went on to gather outside the mosque. An unidentified
number of militants escaped while the demonstration was
going on, but some remained inside, the Israeli army and
A 22-year-old Palestinian man was also killed in the
northern town, which troops seized on Wednesday. More than
20 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed
since the offensive began.
Overnight, the two sides exchanged fire. Troops also threw
stun and smoke grenades into the mosque to pressure the
gunmen to surrender. Witnesses said an Israeli army
bulldozer knocked down an outer wall of the mosque. It was
not clear if there were any casualties inside.
Residents said Beit Hanoun, a town of 30,000 people, was
effectively under full Israeli control, with a curfew
The army said it targeted Beit Hanoun because it was a
major staging ground for rocket attacks. But Israeli
officials have said the takeover of Beit Hanoun was
expected to last only a few days and did not signal the
start of a wider-scale military offensive in Gaza.
Militants, however, continued to fire rockets at Israeli
border communities, including two that landed on Friday.
Two Israelis were slightly wounded and a house was damaged
in the latest attacks.
In a separate operation last night, an Israeli air strike
on a car in Gaza City killed three Hamas fighters,
including a local militant commander, witnesses said. An
Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the strike.