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Israel attack kills 19

Last updated: 2004-05-18

Seeking medical help in Gaza

Seeking medical help in Gaza

At least 19 Palestinians are dead and dozens more wounded in a major ongoing Israeli military incursion in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli helicopter gunships and armor pounded the Palestinian refugee camp at Rafah Tuesday, as troops conducted house-to-house searches for gunmen and weapons.
Israel says most of those killed were gunmen. But Palestinians say at least six of the dead were civilians. Television footage showed the bodies of two teenagers identified as a brother and sister lying side-by-side in a makeshift morgue.

Israel deployed hundreds of troops and armor to the area Sunday, following bomb attacks by militants in Gaza that killed 13 Israeli soldiers last week.

Israel says the operation is aimed at arresting or killing gunmen and destroying tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. The officials say only homes linked to tunnels will be demolished.

The Arab League said it will begin legal proceedings to bring Israelis to trial for what it says are Gaza war crimes.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court has rejected a petition by 46 Palestinian families in Rafah seeking a hearing on Israeli plans to demolish their homes. The petitioners said their homes had never been used as bases for attacks on Israeli patrols.

Israeli prosecutors argued that Palestinians do not have a right to a pre-demolition court hearing when Israeli soldiers are in mortal danger, or when military operations would be jeopardized by waiting for a hearing to take place.

Early Tuesday, the Israeli incursion appeared focused on the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood on the outskirts of the Rafah refugee camp. Army bulldozers began tearing up a road linking the neighborhood to the rest of the camp.

Hundreds of residents fled the camp ahead of the incursion, which has triggered condemnation from the European Union and the United Nations. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the destruction of homes in Rafah is against international law.

Story supplied by: VOAnews