Eight die in Gaza as Israel pulls back

Eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip after the army pulled out of the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

    Scores of Palestinians have died in the past week in Gaza

    Seven Palestinian fighters and one civilian were killed in various Israeli raids around northern Gaza.

    In one incident, e

    ast of the Jebaliya refugee camp north of Gaza City, three Palestinians, including one woman, were killed when a shell struck the home of Jamila al-Shanti, a Hamas politician, Palestinian sources said.

    The Israeli army said a tank opened fire after two rocket-propelled grenades were fired at their soldiers.

     

    Last Thursday, al-Shanti organised a protest by hundreds of women that allowed Palestinian men to escape from a northern Gaza mosque which was under Israeli siege.

    Also on Tuesday, two members of the Islamic Jihad were shot  and killed by Israeli soldiers in the coastal Sudniya region, medics said. 

    The army said it had fired on two armed men approaching south of Beit Hanoun.
      
    Another Palestinian, a member of the armed wing of Hamas, was killed during an exchange of fire.

    The latest attacks brought the total number of Palestinians killed since last Wednesday to at least 63.

    Rocket attacks

    Residents confirmed that the Israeli army had left Beit Hanoun overnight.

    "We withdrew our forces from Beit Hanoun after having completed our mission," an Israeli military spokesman said.

    Israel started the latest offensive on Wednesday, saying it wanted to stop Palestinian fighters from firing homemade rockets, and as part of an ongoing operation to retrieve a soldier captured four months ago.

    Despite the operation, 36 makeshift rockets have been fired into Israel since then, lightly wounding three people.

    In the latest incident, fighters on Tuesday in the Beit Hanoun area fired rockets at the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon.

    The army said four rockets hit the city but caused no casualties.

    Weapons seized

    The Israeli spokesman said significant numbers of rockets, anti-tank weapons, explosives and other munitions had been seized.

    Palestinians left their homes to
    inspect the damage in the town

    Residents reported that Israeli armoured vehicles had withdrawn from the centre of the town during the night to its northern outskirts, close to the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
      
    Ali Uda, a doctor at a hospital in Beit Hanoun, said: "Twenty-four tanks were posted around the hospital. Now I can't see a single one."

    After the withdrawal, residents left their homes to bury the dead and examine the destruction from the week-long offensive.

    Several homes had been demolished and dozens partially damaged.

    Destruction

    Electricity and telephone networks, along with many roads and water pipes, have been destroyed, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

    Khalil Yazji, a police officer, said: "This is the worst raid we have ever witnessed. The Israeli army has brought destruction into every single street and nearly into every single house. This is the tsunami of Beit Hanoun."

    The latest offensive was part of a larger operation by Israeli forces that moved back into Gaza four months ago after an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinian fighters.

    More than 300 Palestinians have been killed since.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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