Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Israel warns against hiding weapons

AP AND AFP , GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP

Palestinians use their cellphones to take pictures of the body of Palestinian militant Hosam Badrasawe inside a morgue during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank town of Nablus yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Israel pursued its air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip yesterday, warning civilians that every home storing weaponry was now a target.

Ignoring international calls for restraint, Israel has vowed to continue its Gaza assault, launched to free a captured soldier and stop rocket attacks, "without time limit."

The Israeli army dropped leaf-lets on towns and villages in the Gaza Strip yesterday, warning residents that "anyone who has, or is keeping an arsenal, ammunitions or weapons in their house must destroy it or they will face dangerous consequences."

After dropping the leaflets written in Arabic language, military officials said that the army was adopting a "new policy" of attacking homes in civilian areas where weapons such as homemade rockets are secretly stored.

A spokeswoman said the army had "specific information that some houses are storing weapons" in Gaza.

"Palestinian terrorist organizations have been using the civilian population as human shields," she claimed.

"We're warning the civilian population because we don't want them to get hurt ... to stay away from such houses and stay away from terrorists," she said.

A short time later, during the army's second day of an operation in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza, Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile toward a group of Palestinians standing in an open area, killing one and wounding five, medics said.

The casualties included a man dressed in militant fatigues but most were civilians living in nearby homes, the medics said.

Earlier, a Palestinian teenager was killed in Mughazi as militants and troops exchanged fire, medics said. It was not immediately clear if he was armed.

A military spokeswoman said that Israeli aircraft attacked two groups of gunmen -- one carrying anti-tank missiles -- approaching ground troops in Mughazi.

Another aerial attack targeted three tunnels in the southern part of Gaza Strip, where ground troops launched a 1km incursion from the Sufa crossing to locate further tunnels, she said.

The Israeli air force also fired missiles at an abandoned police station in Gaza early yesterday. No casualties were reported.

A UN report issued on Wednesday said the Israeli army has carried out 168 airstrikes and fired more than 600 shells into Gaza, while Palestinian militants have fired 177 homemade rockets toward Israel.

The report said 100 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza offensive began, not counting the nine on Wednesday. Thirty of the 100 were under age 18, the report added.

Most of the Palestinian fatalities were gunmen, officials in Gaza and Israel have said. At least 15 Palestinian civilians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began in Gaza.

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