Israelis Kill 19 In Gaza Raids
Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army was investigating the deaths of the children. "We don't know exactly what happened there," he said.
As for the ambulance delays, Dallal said all ambulances are subjected to security checks because gunmen have used them to launch attacks and smuggle arms. He blamed the long delays on the fact that the ambulances were seeking to enter combat zones where firing was going on and some roads were booby-trapped with mines. "In a situation like this, also an ambulance passing by could be hurt," he said.
Operation Rainbow began Monday, when tanks and armored personnel carriers sealed off the Gaza Strip's southernmost city and refugee camp, with a population of about 165,000. Just after midnight, helicopter gunships fired missiles at areas where large numbers of fighters were allegedly concentrated, killing three people and wounding seven, as soldiers started moving into Tel Sultan, which they encircled and cut off from the rest of Rafah.
A few hours later, an attack helicopter fired two missiles at militants near a mosque, killing eight people and wounding 23. The mosque was damaged in the attack, witnesses said.
By dawn residents reported several gun battles. But for the most part, Tamim Hussein and other Palestinian witnesses said, armed Palestinians did not put up much of a struggle against the tanks and overwhelming numbers of soldiers arrayed against them.
The Israeli army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, told reporters that soldiers had demolished three houses overnight that concealed tunnels used for smuggling weapons across the nearby border with Egypt. He said the army could take several days to complete its mission.
[Two gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were killed early Wednesday in fighting in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin, news services reported.]
Correspondent Robin Shulman and researcher Samuel Sockol in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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