Four killed in Israeli shelling of Gaza Strip

Ibrahim Barzak
Thursday 29 August 2002 00:00
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Four Palestinians, including a mother and two of her sons, were killed last night when Israeli tank shells landed in a Bedouin encampment near an Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Tanks moved into Palestinian territory near the settlement of Netzarim, blocking a main road, residents said. Gunboats patrolled the shore, where a day earlier Israeli forces had fired at objects in the water, suspected to be packets of smuggled arms.

The dead were identified as Rawaida Hajien, 50, two of her sons, Ashraf, 23, and Mehad, 17, and a cousin, Mohammed, 20. Ms Hajien's four-year-old son, Khaled, was critically injured, and three other people were hurt, doctors said.

Arriving at the hospital, a relative, Fares Hajien, 30, saw the bodies and broke into tears. "It's a brutal crime," he said. "This is the Israeli step to implement the so-called Gaza plan."

An agreement for Israelis to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank town of Bethlehem was announced on 18 August.Israeli forces left Bethlehem two days later. Palestinians say the Israelis are stalling on the Gaza handover. Israel counters that the Palestinians are not stopping terror attacks and called off a meeting set for yesterday between the Israeli Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and his Palestinian counterpart, the Interior Minister, Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, after overnight incidents in Gaza – the suspected arms smuggling and a mortar attack on a settlement.

Armed with automatic weapons, Palestinian police in Gaza checked papers and opened car trunks – sometimes at the remains of roadblocks destroyed by Israel months ago – in an attempt to fulfil their end of the deal.

The presence of Israeli checkpoints just yards from Palestinian ones in Gaza added to Palestinian scepticism about the deal. "I hope it will work, but we cannot trust the Israelis," said Ahmed Abu Oweila, a 42-year-old taxi driver in Gaza. "Nothing has changed from their end."

In the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank yesterday, Mohammed Amouri, 34, was killed by Israeli tank fire while he was inside his home, witnesses said. Gunmen fired on Israeli tanks patrolling the camp and Mr Amouri was hit by Israeli return fire, the witnesses said.

A Palestinian vegetable vendor was shot dead by Israeli troops near a Jewish settlement in Gaza. Palestinian witnesses said he was riding his bicycle. The army said he threw stones and tried to climb a post off limits to Palestinians.

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