Israeli forces shoot Palestinian boy dead as he plays football

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The Independent Online

A nine-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces yesterday as he played football, local residents said after armoured vehicles once again entered the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

A nine-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces yesterday as he played football, local residents said after armoured vehicles once again entered the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

A few hours later five Palestinian gunmen were killed in Gaza by Israeli forces protecting the approach road used by Israelis from the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. The army said its unit returned fire from one gunman and then shot four others who subsequently approached the "structure" occupied by the troops.

The boy killed in Rafah, named as Omar Za'ran, was pronounced dead by medics at the local hospital, after he was brought in from the Brazil section of the town's refugee camp. Bashir Abu Jlidan, 18, said: "We were playing football when Israeli tanks ... started firing inside the camp and towards us." He said that the boy had fallen to the ground, bleeding.

Palestinian sources said a force of 15 armoured vehicles backed by Apache helicopters had entered the town. The army said it was a mission to find and destroy tunnels used by militants to smuggle weapons. It added that it was still checking reports of the boy's death.

The army, which was still operating in Rafah last night, said it had discovered the shaft of a tunnel under abandoned stores near the Brazil camp. Palestinian sources said the force had begun to destroy houses in the area.

Meanwhile, witnesses said Israeli helicopters had fired two missiles into Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, injuring several people, one critically. Israeli military bulldozers began destroying olive groves and orchards in Beit Hanoun to strip militants of cover.

And in a third Gaza incident, the sources said last night that at least one Palestinian gunman had been shot dead by an army patrol protecting the Jewish settlement of Netzarim.

Earlier yesterday Israeli forces launched a raid into the normally quiet West Bank town of Jericho. The army said it had arrested 30 wanted Palestinians and had found weapons, including rifles and grenades.

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