Israeli attacks in Gaza kill 17

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Saturday, November 4, 2006

Three Hamas fighters, including Luaye al-Burnu, a local official in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, were among over 17 dead as a result of Israeli assaults in Gaza. Two women were gunned down by Israeli soldiers who opened fire on a group of woman that formed in front of a mosque where Hamas men had taken refuge. Israeli soldiers reacted to the mosque as a Hamas defense position, and to the women who ran to the mosque as a human shield to aid those inside to escape.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya praised the women, but the Israelis said they had served as "human shields" for the resistance militia. Palestinian officials have termed the Israeli attacks "massacres".

The incident occurred when the local womenfolk were asked, on radio, to intervene in the tense standoff between the Israeli troops and about 15 Hamas fighters in the mosque. One lady, Nahed Abou Harbiya, told the BBC Arabic Service that the men were given womens' clothes so that they could escape.

"All the women headed to the mosque to get the Palestinian resistance men... But the Israeli occupation forces were firing heavily at us with their machine guns and also threw stun grenades at us. "We entered the mosque and indeed we got all the resistance men out and put female attire on them so that the Israeli occupation forces wouldn't arrest them," she said.

The firing began as the women approached the Israeli gunmen, injuring 10 people, including one Palestinian camerman. Hamas radio reported that all 15 men had escaped safely.

Palestinian doctors confirmed that seven people died as a result of Israeli air raids in Beit Hanoun. A spokesman for Israel's military stated that five towns-Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya and Rafah had been targeted. An Israeli official claimed that the attacks were aimed at "suspected Palestinian militants who were planting explosives or who had carried out rocket attacks."

A Hamas official said that the "militants had been involved in manufacturing rockets that were to be fired at Israel." About 30 people, including some gunmen and a four-year-old child have been killed by Israeli attacks in Beit Hanoun. Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says over 300 Palestinians have been killed by attacks carried out by Israel following the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on 25 June this year.