Islamic Jihad vows to avenge Gaza bloodbath

The Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad has vowed revenge after Israel killed at least eight Palestinians on the outskirts of Gaza City on Wednesday.

    Families of the Gaza dead mourn their loss

    The men were shot dead in the al-Zaytun suburb of southern Gaza

    City after Israeli armoured vehicles and bulldozers invaded the area.

    Palestinian hospital sources and witnesses put the number of dead at eight, but Israeli army sources said 13 people were killed.

    Islamic Jihad said four of its

    fighters were "martyred" during the invasion.

    And hospital officials who examined the bodies said some appeared to

    have been shot in the head at close range.

    But a

    n Israeli army spokesman denied the allegations.

    Gaza invasion

    He said troops came under attack while

    conducting an operation to find cells of Palestinian "militants"

    responsible for attacks on the nearby Jewish settlement of

    Netzarim.

    "The soldiers saw about five to 10 gunmen approach them," he

    said. "The force opened fire at them. A majority of them were hit."

    The Israeli army regularly launches
    attacks in the occupied territories

    He also insisted the troops under attack had not left

    their armoured vehicle throughout the exchanges of fire.

    However, the killings brought immediate condemnation from the Palestinian

    Authority, with veteran leader Yasir Arafat's chief adviser, Nabil

    Abu Rudaina, saying "the Israeli government must bear the

    responsibility for this massacre".

    And Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya also condemned the killings

    .

    'Israeli crime' 

    "What has happened in Gaza is one of the crimes which Israel

    commits on a daily basis," he said.

    Quraya was speaking to reporters after a meeting with US envoy John Wolf in the West Bank town of Ram Allah.

    The violence cast a shadow over his first meeting with

    Wolf, the man tasked by US President George Bush with overseeing

    implementation of the troubled "road map" peace plan.

    However, Quraya said he was optimistic the impasse in the peace

    process could be broken, adding he had asked the Americans to help

    line up a much-delayed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel

    Sharon.

    "The fact the United States has taken up its important role

    again of trying to bring both sides to their senses gives us reason

    to be optimistic," he said.

    Roadmap

    John Wolf (R) is charged with
    reinvigorating the road map

    It was Wolf's first visit to the region since September. The

    intervening period has seen no progress in the roadmap which was

    endorsed by all sides at a ceremony overseen by Bush in June.

    "We came out here to reiterate President Bush's commitment to

    his vision that he set out in June 2002... That vision is essential

    for us and we believe it is essential for the two parties," Wolf

    told reporters.

    The envoy held talks on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Silvan

    Shalom and was to meet on Thursday with Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz.

    The road map envisages the creation of an independent Palestinian

    state by 2005 alongside a secure Israel. But the phased project

    obliges both sides to meet a series of commitments before any final

    status agreement can be discussed.

    Top-level talks have been frozen since August, when Israel

    has continued its settlement activity in the occupied

    territories and targeted resistance group leaders for assassination. 

    On the other hand, Israel says Palestinian authorities have failed to crack down

    on resistance groups who have conducted anti-Israel attacks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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