At Least 8 Killed in Gaza Violence
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 8, 2004; 11:33 AM
JERUSALEM, July 8 --Israeli tanks and helicopters in the northern Gaza Strip opened fire on Palestinian snipers in an intense early morning battle Thursday that killed at least eight Palestinians, including a 35-year-old woman, and injured one Israeli soldier, according to an Israeli military spokeswoman and Palestinian security officials.
Later, five Israeli soldiers were wounded when their jeep was hit by an explosion near the Jewish settlement of Morag in southern Gaza, the army said. The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it had detonated a roadside bomb in retaliation for "the ugly Zionist massacre" in northern Gaza, the Associated Press reported.
Five Palestinian militants were killed in the fighting in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, according to statements from their organizations. Among them was a local commander of the Hamas militant group, Palestinian officials said.
A woman, Jamilah Karana, was shot dead as she dashed out of her house to try to pull a wounded relative to safety during a heavy barrage of tank and gunfire, Palestinian witnesses said. The man she was trying to rescue, Naeim Kafarna, died of his wounds, according to Palestinian hospital officials. The eighth person reported killed was unidentified.
It was the most intense fighting in the Gaza Strip since Israeli forces moved additional troops and armored vehicles into the Beit Hanoun area 10 days ago. The fighting began after an Israeli man and a three-year-old boy were killed by a crude, Palestinian-made Qassam rocket fired from inside Gaza.
Israeli troops have been clearing olive groves and fields on the edge of Beit Hanoun in an effort to eliminate potential hiding spots for militants firing the rockets, an Israeli military spokeswoman said.
Palestinian security officials reported that armored bulldozers and Israeli troops began moving from the perimeter of Beit Hanoun deeper inside the village Thursday just after midnight .
An Israeli military spokesman said soldiers were taking positions near a location where militants have been known to launch Qassam missiles. He said that at about 1:20 a.m., soldiers on a foot patrol came under heavy fire while walking in a field and one soldier was seriously wounded in a leg.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli troops moved deeper into the village at daybreak and began shooting indiscriminately in all directions. An Israeli military spokeswoman said Palestinian fire rained on the armored troops from all directions.
"There were a lot of heavy exchanges of fire," the spokeswoman said.
As the troops advanced, Israeli forces shot at two militants from the Islamic Resistance Movement known as Hamas, killing Nahed Abu Odah, 46, identified in a Hamas statement as a field commander.
As the troops moved further inside the village, residents of the town said Karana and the relative she was trying to rescue were killed.
In a chaotic exchange of bullets between Israeli special forces and militants, soldiers shot dead one militant, then killed another militant who attempted to assist him, Palestinian witnesses said. A civilian who then tried to help those two men was gunned down, and another militant was killed trying to help the three fallen men, witnesses reported.
"We know there were reports that civilians were hit," an Israeli spokeswoman said. She said she could not confirm any details of the reports.
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