Monday, October 07, 2002

12 Palestinians Killed in Gaza Raid
Israeli tanks backed by helicopters raided a neighborhood in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis early today, killing 12 Palestinians, including 10 who died when a missile blasted into a crowd gathered in the street, Palestinian officials said.

Hospital officials said all the dead, aged from 14 to to 52, were civilians and that up to another 100 were wounded, 25 of them critically.

Another four people were injured, Palestinians said, when the Israelis fired at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, where most of the wounded had been taken. The military said the shots were in response to mortar gire.

The military said it initiated the raid after Palestinian militants fired a rocket at a Jewish settlement near Khan Yunis, causing no casualties. It said its forces had uncovered several mortar shells and arrested one Palestinian militant in the operation.

Palestinian witnesses told news agencies that a crowd of about 200 ventured out of their houses and gathered near a local mosque when it appeared that the Israelis were pulling out.

Brig. Gen. Israel Ziff, the Israeli Army commander in the area, described the crowd as armed men.

"They fired a lot and threw grenades," he said. "The helicopter aimed at this armed group and hit them."

Both Hamas and Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement vowed revenge for the attack. A Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying: "Everyone should know that as our people were not safe in Khan Yunis, so Israelis will not be safe in Tel Aviv. We will strike everywhere."

Israel's deputy defense minister, Weizman Shiri, said he was sorry if civilians were hurt. "But what can we do?" he said on Israel Army Radio. "This is war."