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UN Secretary general Kofi Annan has condemned Israeli military action in a Gaza refugee camp which saw the deaths of Palestinian children.

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    The killing and maiming of innocent Palestinians continued for a second day in the camp which was surrounded by Israeli tanks and army snipers on Saturday.

    The Israeli army pressed ahead with a deadly raid on the Gaza Strip for a second straight day Saturday despite strong criticism from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of the seven Palestinians killed, two of them children.

    "The secretary general deplores the killing of Palestinian civilians during the Israeli incursion into Rafah in the Gaza Strip," said a statement issued by the United Nations.

    "Not for the first time, the secretary general reminds Israel that the disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas is not compatible with international humanitarian law."

    However, defiant Israeli officers would only say their operation had met with stiff resistance and that, early Saturday, Palestinian militants retaliated with mortar fire against Jewish settlements in the Gush Katif bloc.

    "This operation is continuing and will continue for as long as necessary," a military source told AFP.

    Israeli army snipers have taken up position on the rooftops of buildings in the Rafah refugee camp and are firing randomly at houses in the area, according to the Aljazeera correspondent.

    An injured Palestinian

    As the military aggression continues for a second day, “the Israeli army has occupied a number of high buildings in al-Sh’ut and al-Barahma areas in Rafah, and the southern area of Yebna refugee camp, near the Egyptian border”,  reported Sameer Abu Shammala.

    “Israeli snipers are based in these buildings, shooting Palestinian resistance fighters and civilians, and opening fire randomly at many houses there,” he said. 

    Israeli snipers are based in these buildings, shooting Palestinian resistance fighters and civilians, and opening fire randomly at many houses there

    Sameer Abu Shammala

    Already seven Palestinians have been killed, including a 12-year old girl. Sixty people have been injured, 20 seriously, the correspondent said.

    This comes after Israel sent dozens of tanks into the camps early on Friday claiming they were looking for 13 tunnels used by Palestinian resistance fighters to smuggle arms.

    Homes demolished

    Israeli bulldozers have also destroyed vast areas of land near the Egyptian border and demolished at least three houses.

    Palestinian security and medical sources have told Aljazeera there may be many civilians injured in their homes, but they cannot be reached.

    Rafah hospitals are not well-equipped to treat this huge number of injured people, particularly that the city has been cordoned off for the seventh day running, preventing hospitals from receiving medical aids, Abu Shammala said.

    Palestinians in Rafah city are currently living in a disastrous situation, the correspondent said. “Power and water supplies are cut off in the city”, he said.

    Arafat to meet Quraya

    Meanwhile, Palestinian President Yasir Arafat will meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya behind closed doors this afternoon.

    “Two other meetings will be held later by Fatah’s central committee and the PLO’s executive committee”, said Abu Shammala. All these meetings come in the context of the inter-Palestinian efforts to end the disagreements over Quraya’s new government, “so he can present it to the Palestinian Legislative Council to gain its confidence,” the correspondent said.  

    “It is still unclear if Naser Yousef will still be appointed as Interior Minister.”

    “Hakam al-Bal’awi, a member of Fatah’s central committee, or Abd al-Razzaq al-Majayda might replace Yousef in case he was not appointed,” Abu Shammala added.

    “The new government will not be an emergency government,” the correspondent said.  “It will include 8-9 ministers, with others to join it later.”

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    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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