Israeli troops killed at least seven Palestinians yesterday in the fiercest fighting in northern Gaza since the army invaded 10 days ago.
Palestinian witnesses in the town of Beit Hanoun said five of the dead were gunmen, including Nahed Abu Odah, local commander of the armed wing of the Islamic militant group Hamas, and two were non-combatants.
Colonel Avi Levy, commander of Israeli forces in the area, said his men reported eight or nine Palestinians were killed and that one soldier was wounded.
Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters also swept into part of Khan Younis refugee camp and bulldozed several buildings, an army spokesman said.
He said the buildings were uninhabited, while Palestinian witnesses reported troops with loudspeakers ordered families out of houses targeted for demolition.
Violence has surged in Gaza in the run-up to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's planned withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from the area by the end of next year, as Palestinian militants and the army vie for supremacy.
Faced with the possibility of a power vacuum in Gaza after an Israeli pullout, international mediators have stepped up pressure on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to institute security reforms to help keep militants in check.
Envoys from the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie on Wednesday the world had run out of patience with Arafat's "empty promises" of change, said a senior diplomat.
In separate comments yesterday, UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen called in an Israel Radio interview for "necessary security reforms on the Palestinian side so that all ... terrorism and violence comes to a complete halt."
The latest fighting in Gaza's densely populated Beit Hanoun area erupted on the 10th day of an open-ended Israeli incursion that began after a child and an adult were killed by a rocket fired at the Israeli border town of Sderot.
"Twelve rockets have been launched since the operation started, but their effectiveness and the frequency of the attacks are down because we are in the field," Levy said in Jerusalem.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, vowed that resistance would not stop as long as Israeli aggression continued.
A gunman in Beit Hanoun said his squad was trying to leave town via a back road when they were surprised by Israeli special forces on the ground and soldiers firing from rooftops.
"Three (of my comrades) were killed. I crawled away. A man came out of his house to help but he was hit by a sniper. A woman and her daughter were watching from their doorstep and were also hit by gunfire," he said.
Hospital officials said the man and the woman were killed. Asked about civilian casualties, Levy said no non-combatants were shot intentionally.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged