Archive for Saturday, October 2, 2004

Israeli forces preparing for major showdown in Gaza

October 2, 2004

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— Israeli aircraft struck more targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday as the army massed an armored force in apparent preparation for a major military operation against militants in Jebaliya, the Palestinians' biggest refugee camp.

Some 200 tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored bulldozers assembled along Israel's border on Gaza's north and east of Gaza. Security officials quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as ordering troops to "exact a price" from the militants. Soldiers began erecting makeshift camps, indicating commanders could be planning a prolonged operation.

At the same time, masked Palestinian gunmen fortified positions in the maze of alleys that lace Jebaliya, a teeming half square mile that is home to 106,000 people, one of the most densely populated places on Earth.

The Palestinians death toll in the most recent round of fighting reached 39 early today when Israeli aircraft fired at a group of Palestinians northeast of Jebaliya, killing two militants from the Islamic Jihad group and wounding four other people, according to witnesses and Palestinian hospital officials said. The army said it had fired at a group of gunmen.

Seven Palestinians were killed and at least 32 wounded by the missiles and in a failed attack on an Israeli border crossing Friday, while two others died from wounds suffered a day earlier. Fighting on Thursday killed 28 Palestinians and wounded 139, most of them in Jebaliya, in the worst single-day toll in 30 months.

Israeli army armored units prepare to go into Gaza, at a staging
area along the northern border with Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz
Mefalsim. Armored vehicles massed on Gaza's border Friday after
Israel's security cabinet approved a large-scale military operation
in Gaza code-named "Days of Penitence." The death toll was 39
Palestinians and five Israelis in two days, in some of the fiercest
fighting in many months of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli army armored units prepare to go into Gaza, at a staging area along the northern border with Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz Mefalsim. Armored vehicles massed on Gaza's border Friday after Israel's security cabinet approved a large-scale military operation in Gaza code-named "Days of Penitence." The death toll was 39 Palestinians and five Israelis in two days, in some of the fiercest fighting in many months of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Israeli death toll stood at five, including two preschoolers whose killing Wednesday by a Palestinian rocket led the Israeli government to order what was shaping into one of the largest offensives of the 4-year-old Palestinian uprising.

Underscoring the difficulty of stopping such attacks, another homemade Qassam rocket fired Friday hit Sderot, the dead children's hometown, even as Israeli troops took control of a five-mile-wide strip of Gaza in an effort to put Israeli towns out of rocket range.

The rocket caused no injuries, but the Israeli incursion into Jebaliya was inflaming passions in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis in four years.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the security Cabinet that he was determined to stop the rocket fire. "What can we do? The Jews, too, have a right to live," a participant quoted Sharon as saying.

In Washington, the State Department called on Israel to temper its military response to the rocket attack.

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