Israel wipes out Hamas family in day of revenge

Click to follow

Yesterday was the Palestinians' turn to mourn their innocent dead and vow revenge.

With warplanes, tanks and guns, Israel staged raids on targets including the Bethlehem headquarters of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat; Palestinian refugee camps, and a West Bank neighbourhood. They killed 17 Palestinians, including five childrenand a doctor in an ambulance.

In another attack last night, Israeli helicopters fired missiles on a building in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Mr Arafat was in another building just yards away, but was not hurt.

Earlier, Bushra Abu Quaik, the wife of a leading Hamas militant, and her three children, aged eight to 17, were killed when an Israeli tank shell hit their pick-up van as she was driving them home from school near Ramallah. A second vehicle passing in the opposite direction was hit by shrapnel. The driver and two children aged four and 16 were killed. Witnesses said the seats of Mrs Abu Quaik's van were soaked with blood. Schoolbooks were scattered and charred. An Israeli army spokesman said the tank fired at another car carrying armed Palestinians but missed. He regretted the loss of life.

That was no consolation to the bereaved father, Hussein Abu Quaik, who told hundreds of angry mourners after viewing the bodies: "The enemy has unmasked its ugly face. Sharon, the bloodsucker, wants to break our will and our steadfastness. I say to him he will not celebrate our defeat. The resistance will continue and the Palestinians and Israelis in this hellish war will pay the price."

Elsewhere on the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot at a Red Crescent ambulance in the Jenin refugee camp, killing the head of local emergency services, Dr Khalil Suleiman, and wounding two paramedics. The Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees said another ambulance was also fired on, wounding the driver.

The Israeli spokesman said Dr Suleiman's ambulance was travelling at high speed at the soldiers, who called on the driver to stop. When he failed to comply, the soldiers fired single shots with light weapons.

The Israelis said the ambulance then exploded, though they could not tell whether it was carrying a bomb or whether the fuel tank had been hit. The Red Crescent said the ambulance was hit by an Israeli tank shell.

Jibril al-Rajoub, the Palestinian security chief for the West Bank, said: "These are massacres, and it is these crimes that make suicide bombers out of our people and bring about retaliation and more victims and bloodshed."

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, said five other people were killed in Jenin when Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers invaded the camp for the second time in a week: a man and two women were hit inside their homes and two gunmen killed in exchanges of fire. Near the West Bank town of Qalqilya, troops shot dead a man they claimed ran at them with a knife shouting, "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest).

Dr Barghouti said 165 ambulances have been hit since the intifada began 17 months ago. Dr Suleiman was the 11th Palestinian doctor, nurse or paramedic killed. An Israeli colonel claimed at the weekend that ambulances sometimes carried Palestinian fugitives.

Israeli troops were still on the edge of the Jenin camp last night, and exchanges of fire were continuing. Earlier yesterday, the army stormed into the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip, killing three Palestinians. Doctors said two were civilians; one of whom was trying to get his child away from the shooting.

The Israelis moved in after Mr Sharon's war cabinet vowed on Sunday night to step up reprisals for the weekend suicide bomb attack in a religious area of Jerusalem, where the death toll rose to 10 yesterday, and the shooting dead of 10 soldiers and civilians at a checkpoint north of Ramallah. The Prime Minister told MPs that Israel would not succumb to the "relentless campaign of Palestinian terror". He said: "We are in a war over our home ... but we will win and in the end peace will come to this home."

¿ A gunman opened fire with an automatic rifle at a Tel Aviv restaurant late last night wounding at least 13 people. Yosef Cohen, the Tel Aviv area director of the Magen David Adom rescue services, said some of the wounded had died. Radio reports said a policeman fired at the attacker.