Israeli military kills 12 in Gaza City incursion

Palestinians stand around the remains of a destroyed bridge in Beit Hanoun in the Northern Gaza strip, Saturday. Israeli forces used dynamite to destroy a bridge early Saturday which they said was used by militants to fire rockets at Israeli towns.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 1:18 a.m.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli forces with tanks and helicopters moved deep into Gaza City early today, killing 12 Palestinians in exchanges of fire, a large-scale assault just three days before Israel's election.
It was the highest toll in Gaza in five months, and the incursion was the deepest into Gaza City in more than two years of fighting. Tanks were seen a half a mile from Palestine Square, which marks the center of the city of about 300,000.
Late Saturday, Israeli tanks entered the city from three directions, as helicopter gunships fired machine guns at targets and at crowds of people in the streets, including gunmen, witnesses said.
Twelve Palestinians were killed and 51 wounded, eight critically, hospital officials said. It was the bloodiest day in the Gaza Strip since August, when 13 people were killed in an Israeli attack on the southern city of Khan Younis. Casualties were being brought to Gaza's Shifa Hospital in cars and ambulances.
The Israeli military said its forces in Gaza came under heavy rifle and anti-tank fire, and soldiers returned the fire.
A missile fired by an Israeli helicopter started a huge fire in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, witnesses said. Firefighters were battling the blaze in the industrial area.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, said its fighters blew up three Israeli tanks with explosives.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, running for re-election, stood to benefit from an upsurge of violence as Tuesday's elections approached.
Israeli forces blew up the two-story house of a Hamas militant and were approaching the houses of two others involved in an attack on a Jewish settlement in Gaza, Palestinians said.
Early today, witnesses said nine Israeli tanks took up positions in the center of Beit Hanoun, a town at the northern edge of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have been firing rockets and mortars from Beit Hanoun at Jewish settlements and nearby Israeli towns in recent days.
As the Israeli incursion in Gaza City was in progress, Maj. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaidie, head of Palestinian security in Gaza, accused Sharon of "adding a new page to his dark record. This crime against innocent civilians is another part of his continuous war against the Palestinian people and Palestinian homeland."
The incursion began around 10 p.m. Saturday, with about 35 tanks moving toward the center of Gaza City from three directions, witnesses and security officials said.
Palestinian legislator Ziad Abu Amr said he saw 10 tanks drive through his street. Another resident, Mohammed Tafesh, 29, said electricity was cut to the neighborhood. From mosque loudspeakers across the city, gunmen were called into the streets to wage "holy war" against the Israelis.
Two helicopter gunships fired machine guns toward armed men. In one exchange, gunmen fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli armored vehicle, drawing Israeli tank fire. Tafesh said the gunmen got away.

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