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Israel Machine-Guns 4 Palestinian Schools, Kills 8, Wounds 60

Israel machine-gunned and shot missiles at 4 Palestinian schools, killed 8, including 3 children and a 70 year old woman.
6 Palestinians die in tank shelling

By Joel Greenberg
New York Times News Service

October 18, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Israeli tanks battling Palestinian gunmen fired cannons and machine guns into the densely populated Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least six people and wounding 60 others, the director of the local hospital said.

The Palestinian leadership called the killings a "new massacre" and said eight people had been killed. There were unconfirmed reports that two bodies had yet to be recovered.

The latest bloodshed came days after the Bush administration expressed deep concern over a significant rise in Palestinian civilian casualties during Israeli military operations. Last week, 17 Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid on the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that after Thursday's shelling, dismembered bodies were pulled from the rubble of refugee dwellings, and body parts littered the alleys. The dead included a 4-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, two women and two men, said Dr. Ali Musa, the director of Rafah Hospital. He said that half the wounded were seriously hurt.

The Israeli army said that its tanks had returned fire after an antitank rocket fired by gunmen in the camp hit an armored bulldozer that was building protective earthwork around an Israeli army position. No Israeli casualties were reported.

"The terrorists use the Palestinian population as a human shield," a military spokesman said, adding that the army regretted civilian casualties. "The force was in real danger."

Accounts by the army and local witnesses described fighting throughout the day Thursday between the gunmen and Israeli tanks protecting bulldozers working near the Termit outpost facing the Rafah refugee camp on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Gunmen opened fire and hurled grenades before firing antitank rockets, the army said.

In reply, tanks fired cannon shells at several houses, witnesses said. A resident who identified himself as Bassam, said there had been "random shelling in the whole area," killing one man at the entrance of his home and two women on the street.

Abdullah Abu Jazar, whose wife, Fatima, 70, was killed, said that he was sitting with her in their house when a shell hit.

"All of a sudden, fire entered through the wall," he told Reuters.

Wailing ambulances raced through the alleys of the camp as medical crews braved gunfire to reach the wounded. Rafah Hospital was swamped with casualties and relatives of the injured.

The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees said that heavy machine-gun fire had hit one of its schools and pupils had to be moved to a basement for safety.

The agency said that another of its schools was struck by a tank shell and that two Palestinian Authority schools were also hit.
 
 

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