Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank yesterday as the army began a new push into a refugee camp in central Gaza yesterday, clashing with gunmen and bulldozing farmland.
Thirty military vehicles entered the Maghazi camp just before dawn, the latest offensive in a three-week operation in Gaza that has been overshadowed by the conflict in Lebanon. More than 100 Palestinians, about half of them militants, have been killed and roads, government offices and the main power plant damaged.
Soldiers took over rooftops in the rundown Maghazi camp, home to 22,000 people. After heavy fighting and air strikes, eight Palestinians had been killed and more than 50 were injured.Five Israeli soldiers were injured by a hand grenade. Later, Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into Nablus in the West Bank and demolished Palestinians buildings. Four Palestinians were killed in fighting. Another died later in a separate clash.
The Israeli military said the Gaza operation in part targeted the "infrastructure of a tunnel being dug towards Israel". The offensive began three days after Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25. Israel has demanded the return of Corporal Shalit, 19, and has refused to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Egyptian attempts to mediate have failed.
While most international attention has focused on the heavy conflict in Lebanon, substantial military strikes into Gaza have continued. UN officials met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Gaza City on Tuesday, but there is little sign of an imminent ceasefire.
Earlier this week Israel mounted a two-day operation in Beit Hanoun, a town in the north of the strip where heavy fighting left at least six Palestinians, mostly gunmen, dead. Troops using tanks and bulldozers damaged several houses and farmland as well as three empty UN schools. The mayor estimated the damage at around $7m (£3.8m). Israel also bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry, which partially collapsed. Several homes nearby were also damaged. Saeb Erekat, a prominent Palestinian politician, described it as a "forgotten war", adding: "We urge the international community to offer direct intervention to stop this Israeli military escalation."
In a separate incident, Israeli troops killed three gunmen at a Palestinian security compound in Nablus in the occupied West Bank yesterday. Two journalists, including one named as Wael Tantous from al-Jazeera, were hit by rubber bullets while broadcasting from the scene.
Source: Guardian (UK)