The massacre of Beit Hanoun - 08.11.2006

The massacre of Beit Hanoun - 08.11.2006
(1'st November - 8'th November 2006)

Beit Hanoun invasion 01.11.2006 - 07.11.2006

Since the capture of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants on 25 June, Israel launched a major military operation that has gone on for more than four months and led to the death of around 350 Palestinians many of them civilians. During that time, three Israelis soldiers have died.

In one of Israel's biggest raids into Gaza in recent months, troops carried out three air strikes and moved to encircle the town of Beit Hanoun. The town in northern Gaza Strip was at the centre of a major, ongoing Israeli military operation during the week, Israeli army says its aim is to prevent groups like Islamic Jihad firing missiles across the nearby border into southern Israel. The rocket attacks are simply retaliation for daily Israeli raids and killings in Gaza, and over in the occupied West Bank. The crudely made rockets often cause panic and minor injury, but they very rarely kill.

The town of Beit Hanoun has been under the very tight control of a large force of tanks and troops who have ordered the tens of thousands of local people to stay off the streets for all but very brief periods. The Israelis destroyed Beit Hanoun, they destroyed the infrastructure, cut the water pipes and the telephone lines. Hundreds of men have been rounded up and questioned, and some have been taken away to Israel. The entire town of Beit Hanoun remains under Israeli control and troops have ordered residents to stay indoors.

More than 60 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in a week-long operation.

A senior United Nations official, John Ging, has described the atmosphere in Beit Hanoun as one of "death, destruction and despair". It is almost impossible for journalists to get into the town, but the World Food Programme spokeswoman, Kirstie Campbell, was among United Nations aid workers allowed to bring in emergency rations and medicines, "The atmosphere was extremely stressful," she said. "The people were asking for a lot of things. They were asking for food, for milk, and they were very worried about relatives that have been detained." "You could really see that the people are suffering."

A young Palestinian woman has blown herself up in a bomb attack on Israeli troops in northern Gaza, injuring one soldier but also wounding a number of civilians. The bombing came in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Palestinians regard the attack as an act of desperate resistance.

Earlier, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in an air strike on the northern town of Jabaliya. During the Jabaliya air strike, at least four people were hurt in the attack near a school. The Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked a group of militants retrieving a device used to fire a missile. But the Palestinians said the plane missed its target and, instead, struck close to a school.

At least two women died when an Israeli shell struck the home of Jamila Shanti, an MP from the ruling Palestinian party Hamas. Ms Shanti has been identified as the organiser of a women's protest on Friday to free militants sheltering in a mosque, that was fired on by Israeli troops killing two unarmed protesters.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya have called the operation a "massacre" and urged the UN Security Council to convene to discuss the issue. Pope Benedict XVI said he was very worried about the situation in Gaza, and called on all sides to work to stop the bloodshed and to immediately resume direct and concrete negotiations. The European Union presidency, currently held by Finland, has issued a statement deploring "the growing number of civilian casualties the Israeli military operation has caused". The Red Cross has criticised the killing by Israeli force of paramedics. The International Red Cross also criticised Israel for the killing of two medical workers, saying that the paramedics and their vehicle were clearly marked

Gaza women killed in a Mosque siege 03.11.2006

On Friday 3'rd of November 2006, Two women have been killed as Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd of women gathered to help besieged gunmen flee a mosque in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

In the dramatic mosque rescue, Hamas radio issued an appeal to local women when a tense stand-off developed between Israeli forces surrounding the Mosque and up to 15 militants who had taken refuge inside. One of the women, Nahed Abou Harbiya, described what happened to the BBC Arabic Service "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.

Shots were fired as the women approached Israeli forces. As some of the women tried to pass the troops, further shots came and two women fell to the ground. At least 10 women and a Palestinian cameraman were injured. Hamas radio reported that all of the militants in the mosque escaped and were uninjured.

In other developments, an Israeli air strike on Gaza City killed four Hamas militants, with a local commander of Hamas military wing reportedly among the casualties. The Palestinian housing minister was arrested by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Ramallah. An elderly Palestinian woman was killed in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during an Israeli army arrest raid. At least one Palestinian youth died during an Israeli operation in the West bank town of Nablus

Israeli army leaves Beit Hanoun 07.11.2006

Israel's army says it has pulled out of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, after a six-day operation targeting rocket-firing militants. Witnesses confirmed Israeli troops had left. The army says it has taken up positions in surrounding areas. Some 60 Palestinians, majority of civilians, were killed.

Many of Beit Hanoun's resdents poured into the streets to inspect the damage inflicted on their town by Israeli forces. One resident described it as "the worst raid we have ever witnessed. The army brought destruction into every single street and nearly every single house, this is the tsunami of Beit Hanoun". Numerous buildings bore the scars of tank shells and one mosque was left with only its minaret standing.

The Israeli pull-out came as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya prepared to hold more discussions on the formation of a unity government. The talks are designed to ease the international embargo against the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The two men met late on Monday. Foreign donors, including the US and the European Union, have boycotted the Palestinian government over Hamas' refusal to recognise Israel or to renounce violence.

Beit Hanoun Massacre 08.11.2006

At least 18 Palestinians have been killed and 40 wounded by Israeli tank fire in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Palestinian sources have said.

Palestinian officials said a barrage of tank shells hit civilian homes, and women and children were among the dead. Palestinian hospital officials said 13 of the dead belonged to the same family, and two of them were women and six were children. TV footage from Beit Hanoun showed the victims being taken to hospital in their sleeping clothes, some with terrible injuries. Sources counted about eight impacts. They confirmed that the shells appear to have landed roughly in a straight line, starting in the fields at the end of the street and hitting houses on either side of it.

"It is the saddest scene and images I have ever seen. We saw legs, we saw heads, we saw hands scattered in the street," 22-year-old eyewitness Attaf Hamad told Reuters news agency. "I saw people coming out of a house covered in blood. I started screaming to wake up the neighbours."

Israel has expressed regret for the civilian deaths and says it is investigating the incident. Palestinian leaders have called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to force Israel to stop military raids. The Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya, denounced the Israeli attack as an "awful massacre" and said talks on forming Palestinian unity government would be suspended. Palestinian leaders announced three days of national mourning throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz ordered the halt in artillery attacks and called for an urgent inquiry into the incident. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over the killings and offered humanitarian assistance to the wounded.

The Israelis withdrew from the town on Tuesday 07.11.2006 following a major offensive centred in Beit Hanoun

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