Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Seven Palestinian Youths Are Killed in Israeli Counterattack

Seven Palestinian Youths Are Killed in Israeli Counterattack:
“Responding to Palestinian shelling, an Israeli tank fired into a farming area today, killing seven Palestinian youths whose ages ranged from 11 to 17 according to Palestinian officials and witnesses.

The killings drew a pointed response from Mahmoud Abbas, the favorite in the Palestinian presidential election on Sunday. During a campaign stop in southern Gaza, Mr. Abbas said, "We are praying for the souls of the martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy."

Mr. Abbas is known for his temperate language and has previously refrained from such references to Israel, which are routinely used by Islamic factions such as Hamas.

But today's violence and Mr. Abbas' comments reflected the roiling tensions in Gaza as the Palestinian election approaches.

Palestinians fired four mortars in the morning, wounding an Israeli civilian in an industrial zone on the northern edge of Gaza, the Israeli military said. Another mortar nearly hit a school bus carrying children in northern Gaza, the military added.

Soon after, an Israeli tank fired on a group of Palestinians believed responsible for launching the mortar rounds from farmland on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya, an Israeli military official said.

But Islam Aldaabalah, a 16-year-old who suffered multiple cuts to his face, arms and legs, said that he was among a group of laborers hit while they were working in the strawberry and potato fields, and that the militants had already left.

Mr. Aldaabalah said that he saw the militants fire mortars from the farm fields, and that an Israeli tank soon arrived and fired one shell, but did not hit anyone.

The militants hid behind a building until the tank left, then re-emerged and cut loose with additional mortars, he said. About 15 minutes later, a tank returned and fired a second shell, but the militants had left the area, leaving only the farmworkers, Mr. Aldaabalah said.”

Overall, seven Palestinians were killed and six injured, according to the hospital. Dr. Mahmoud al-Asli, the hospital's director, said the dead were aged 11 to 17, and included six members of the Ghaben family. Three of the dead were brothers, he said. The Ghaben family confirmed the names and ages given by the hospital, The Associated Press reported.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said it investigated the shooting, and found that "all victims of the attack were children working on their agricultural land."

Israeli military officials said they had no independent information on Palestinian casualties. However, they said they had received word from Palestinian security officials that the dead ranged in age from 17 to 19.

Mr. Abbas was campaigning in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis at the time of the shooting, and afterward he traveled to the Kamal Adwan hospital. Just as the car was pulling up, the area was rocked by two loud blasts, the sound of outgoing Palestinian rockets being fired at Israel.

con·cept: Seven Palestinian Youths Are Killed in Israeli Counterattack