Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Israeli army presses into Rafah, Gaza

RANDOM VIOLENCE?The incursion was aimed at destroying so-called terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels for arms smuggling, the army said

AFP , GAZA CITY

A Palestinian family lives in tents in a refugee camp near Rafah, after evacuating their home because of the Israeli invasion, on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

Two Palestinian teenage siblings and two militants were killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip yesterday, as the Israeli military pressed an incursion in the southern city of Rafah.

Omar al-Nuri, 17, and his 15-year-old sister Kiffah were killed by a missile fired from a drone as they fled an Israeli tank near their house in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, hospital officials said.

Their mother Huda, 45, and another unidentified family member were in critical condition after being wounded in the strike, hospital officials said. A third family member was lightly wounded.

Earlier, two armed militants were also killed in separate Israeli air strikes in the area, hospital and security officials said.

Mohammed al-Khawajih, 23, belonged to the military wing of the hardline Islamic Jihad group, while Sharif Ayyash, 23, to that of the governing Islamist movement Hamas.

An Israeli army spokesman said that "four armed terrorists were hit by army fire in two separate incidents in the Rafah sector."

The Israeli army has been involved in a major incursion around Rafah since early Thursday, which has involved dozens of armored personnel carriers and bulldozers backed up by aviation.

According to an AFP count, 15 Palestinians have been killed in the operation, including a 12-year-old boy and at least 11 militants.

An army spokesman said that "more than 35 Palestinian terrorists have been eliminated in army operations in the Gaza Strip over the past 48 hours."

The Rafah incursion was aimed at destroying "terrorist infrastructure," an army spokesman said. The Israeli military says that Palestinian militants use tunnels dug between Gaza and Egypt to smuggle arms into the coastal strip.

The Rafah incursion is part of a wider offensive in the coastal strip that Israel launched on June 28, three days after Palestinian militants from Gaza killed two soldiers and seized a third in a cross-border raid.

The military says it aims to recover the soldier and to stop militants from firing rockets from the strip onto Israeli territory.

At least 167 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have died since the start of the offensive, according to an AFP count.

The offensive has destroyed much of densely-packed Gaza's infrastructure, including its sole power plant, sparking warnings of a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

"The United Nations humanitarian agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory are deeply alarmed by the impact continuing violence is having on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza," the UN said in a statement on Friday.

"We are concerned that with international attention focusing on Lebanon, the tragedy in Gaza is being forgotten," the statement said.

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