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Archive for Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Hamas taunts Israelis with soldiers’ remains

May 12, 2004

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— Hamas militants triumphantly displayed remains of some of the six Israeli soldiers killed Tuesday in a roadside bombing in Gaza City, prompting Israeli threats of punishing reprisals if body parts are not returned.

At least eight Palestinians were killed and 123 were wounded in a battle that pitted hundreds of gunmen against Israeli troops firing from tanks, helicopters and rooftops.

The violence began after midnight, when a small Israeli force entered the crowded Zeitoun neighborhood to look for weapons workshops.

As the troops withdrew around daybreak, an armored personnel carrier transporting at least 220 pounds of explosives for use in the raid was shredded by the roadside bomb.

Through the day and into the night, hundreds of troops searched Zeitoun for the remains of their comrades, which were scattered across a 300-yard radius.

"We are checking every roof and every balcony in order to locate the remnants of the armored personnel carrier and the bodies of our soldiers," army Maj. Gen. Dan Harel said.

Israeli security sources said the search could take days, creating an unprecedented situation in which many Israeli troops would remain in Gaza City, a militant stronghold, for an extended period. Israeli soldiers have raided Gaza neighborhoods before but usually withdrew after a few hours.

Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language TV channel, broadcast a video it said showed two masked Islamic Jihad activists taking responsibility and displaying what they said was the head of an Israeli soldier on a table in front of them. Israel TV carried the footage but electronically obscured the head.

"We are not conducting any negotiations," Israeli military commander Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon said. "We will show no forgiveness toward those who are responsible for (what happened to) the bodies."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat convened his security council in the West Bank city of Ramallah and issued a statement saying the Palestinian Authority was in touch with "our brothers in Gaza" to solve the problem of the body parts "according to religious and humanitarian traditions."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called an emergency session of his Security Cabinet, and participants decided not to negotiate with militant groups for the return of bodies and to continue searching for body parts, officials said.

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