Israelies, Palestinians battle in Gaza City refugee camp

Friday, December 6, 2002

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Amid a battle with Palestinian gunmen, an Israeli army tank fired a shell into a two-story building in Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing seven people and wounding at least seven, witnesses and hospital officials said Friday.

Israeli troops moved into the camp early Friday with tanks backed by helicopters. The army said it was conducting a targeted operation.

Inside the camp, an intense gunbattle broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen, spurred on by calls through mosque loudspeakers urging people to come out and fight the troops.

"At this moment we have seven dead and there seven people being treated for serious wounds, shrapnel, from the strike," said Ahmed Rabah, a doctor at the Al-Aqsa hospital in a neary village of Deir el Balah. He said it was possible the toll could rise.

Hassan Safi, 49, said he was 300 yards away in his home when the shell hit.

"I rushed with my sons to the place, which was all destroyed. I myself took out two people, the helicopter was firing with machine guns at us, making it difficult to move," Safi said.

The army had knocked out the electricity source for the camp and ambulances were having difficulty reaching the area. Soon after the building was hit, Israeli troops pulled out of the camp.

During the incursion, witnesses said troops also surrounded the home of Jamal Ismail, a suicide bomber who blew himself up along with another man in an explosive-packed boat off the Gaza Strip last month. They detonated their explosives when intercepted by an Israeli navy patrol, wounding four Israeli soldiers.

Soldiers also searched the house of Aiman Shasniyeh, a local leader for the Popular Resistance Committee, witnesses said.

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