Gaza: Israeli troops open fire on unarmed women - many wounded, at least two fatally Print E-mail
 London -- Friday 3 November 2006

Israeli troops open fire on women outside mosque

Staff and agencies

Read also report from Jameela al-Shanti: We overcame our fear

The scene near a mosque in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun after Israeli troops opened fire on a group of Palestinian women, killing one of them and injuring 10 others. The mosque had been the scene of an Israeli siege after a group of men, presumed to be armed, took refuge there. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters
A Palestinian woman was killed and another 10 were reported wounded when Israeli forces today opened fire on a group preparing to act as a human shield for militants in a Gaza mosque.

Dozens of women were gathering outside the mosque in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip after an appeal on a local radio station. At least a dozen gunmen had taken refuge in the building after the Israeli army launched its largest Gaza offensive in months in an attempt to stop militants launching rocket attacks on nearby Jewish settlements over the border.

Television pictures showed at least 50 women making their way along a pavement when shots could be heard ringing out. They started to flee in terror and at least two women were left lying on the ground.

Witnesses said one woman, aged about 40, was killed, and 10 others were wounded. The Israeli army said troops spotted two militants hiding in the crowd of women and opened fire.

Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers surrounded the building when militants took refuge there after two days of fighting, the Israeli military and Palestinian security officials said. A large group of women protesters went on to gather outside the mosque. An unidentified number of militants escaped while the demonstration was going on, but some remained inside, the Israeli army and Hamas said.

A 22-year-old Palestinian man was also killed in the northern town, which troops seized on Wednesday. More than 20 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed since the offensive began.

Overnight, the two sides exchanged fire. Troops also threw stun and smoke grenades into the mosque to pressure the gunmen to surrender. Witnesses said an Israeli army bulldozer knocked down an outer wall of the mosque. It was not clear if there were any casualties inside.

Residents said Beit Hanoun, a town of 30,000 people, was effectively under full Israeli control, with a curfew imposed.

The army said it targeted Beit Hanoun because it was a major staging ground for rocket attacks. But Israeli officials have said the takeover of Beit Hanoun was expected to last only a few days and did not signal the start of a wider-scale military offensive in Gaza.

Militants, however, continued to fire rockets at Israeli border communities, including two that landed on Friday. Two Israelis were slightly wounded and a house was damaged in the latest attacks.

In a separate operation last night, an Israeli air strike on a car in Gaza City killed three Hamas fighters, including a local militant commander, witnesses said. An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the strike.

 Pakistan -- Friday, November 03, 2006, Shawal 10, 1427 A.H. (Updated at 1410 PST)

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza protests

  GAZA CITY: Three Palestinians, including a woman, who were protesting for Israeli troops to leave the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, were shot dead by Israeli gunfire on Friday, a medical source said.

A hospital doctor in the nearby town of Beit Lahiya said another 15 people were wounded, with a second woman declared clinically dead from Israeli gunfire as a group of women demonstrated at the entrance to Beit Hanun.

Two Israeli helicopters flying overhead sporadically fired volleys of gunfire in a bid to scare the protestors into fleeing. Israeli fire coming from forces on the ground could also be heard in Beit Hanun.