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Tank in Gaza (Archive)
Photo: Niv Calderon
Abbas says Gaza deaths are massacre
(VIDEO) Palestinian president condemns killing of seven Palestinians in northern Gaza by army forces, urges international community to intervene, prevent escalation in conflict. IDF says attacked gunmen, Palestinians claim casualties were involved in local quarrel

VIDEO - Palestinian officials said that seven Palestinians were killed Monday morning by IDF fire in the town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip and 30 others were wounded, four are in serious to critical condition.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing, describing the incident as a "heinous massacre." Abbas urged the international community to intervene in order to prevent a further escalation in the situation. He called on Israel and Palestinian armed groups to halt the fighting.


Gaza riots (Video: Reuters) (צילום: רויטרס)


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Six of those killed are members of the Shanbari family: Atta Shanbari, a commander at the Salah al-Din Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' military wing, Khaled Shanbari Muhammad Fouad Shanbari, Ibrahim Fouad Shnbari, Riad Kamal Shanbari and Kamal Adnan Shanbari. The seventh casualty is Rammy Mussa Hamdan.

  Palestinians said that shots fired during an altercation between two rival families were mistaken as gunmen fire by the IDF, causing the troops to respond with gunshots.


The Palestinians added that the military force that entered the town took over several houses and opened gun and shell fire at the locals.


The IDF reported that its forces fired at some 10 armed terrorists who were approaching the soldiers while they were engaged in an operation to thwart Qassam attacks. Several of the gunmen were hit, the army stated.


The forces, which include troops from the Givati brigade, are operating near a cemetery located east of Beit Hanoun, an area from which terrorists have launched numerous Qassam rockets at the western Negev recently. At one point during the operation Palestinians opened fire at the forces, who fired back and hit the gunmen.


The IDF emphasized that all the casualties were armed members of the Popular Resistance Committees. IDF sources stated that allegations saying that the IDF interfered in an internal conflict are not known to the military and that soldiers only fired at the cell which fired on the structure they were in.


Lt. Col. Guy Biton, commander of the Givati brigade who's soldiers operated in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday says of the incident in which seven Palestinians were killed: "We only hit gunmen who were firing at our forces. If we didn't those gunmen would be launching Qassam rockets on Sderot tomorrow."


Regarding Abbas' statements that the incident was a 'massacre' Biton said: "The Palestinians like to exaggerate reality and in this case the operation went smoother than ever and only gunmen were hit."


Earlier Monday, gunmen opened fire at IDF forces operating in southern Gaza Strip. the troops responded with fire and hit two of the men. None of the soldiers was injured.


Additionally, a Qassam rocket was fired from northern Gaza and landed near an army base in the Western Negev. No injuries or damage were reported.


The Palestinian Authority is celebrating Monday Id al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Ramadan month.


Some of the troops who took part in the operation in Gaza returned to Israel Monday afternoon. Soldiers spoke of violent clashes with gunmen but said there were no injuries in their ranks.


"Bullets shrilled in our ears, and some hit our protective suites," they said. Commanders congratulated their soldiers for showing courage and professionalism during the operation.


The IDF said the operation was launched after gunmen opened fire at troops. The operation continues.  


Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report


First published: 23.10.06, 11:22
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