An Israeli airstrike targeted the home of
an Hamas activist in northern Gaza early Wednesday and killed seven people,
officials and residents said, while Israel expanded a two-week offensive in the
region with an incursion further south.
Palestinians gather in the rubble of a house destroyed in an
explosion in Gaza City, early Wednesday, July 12, 2006. A huge explosion
destroyed the home of a Hamas activist in Gaza City early Wednesday,
killing five people, including two children, and wounding 15 others, as an
Israeli warplane flew overhead, residents and hospital officials said. [AP
Palestinians said a high-level meeting of Hamas commanders was in progress at
the residence in Gaza City just before the airstrike. Nervous Hamas officials
carefully inspected the bodies but refused to comment.
The Israeli military said it attacked the home because it was a "meeting
place for terrorists." It also confirmed Israeli forces were operating in
southern Gaza as part of an effort to win the release of a captured soldier.
With tanks and troops on the move further south, a huge explosion destroyed
the house of Hamas activist Dr. Nabil al-Salmiah, killing seven people,
including two children, and wounding at least 24, hospital officials and
residents said. There was no immeidate word if al-Salmiah was among the
They said the house was hit by a missile fired from an Israeli warplane. The
Israeli military said it attacked the house because it was a "meeting place for
terrorists" who were planning attacks and rocket launching.
Palestinian rescue teams dodged broken water pipes and electricity wires
searching the rubble with bulldozers, shovels and their hands and to get to
injured people screaming for help.
The scene resembled the aftermath of a 2002 attack, when an Israeli warplane
dropped on one-ton bomb on the house of a Hamas leader in Gaza, killing him and
14 other people, including nine children. The attack set off complaints from
human rights groups that are still reverberating.
The expansion of the Gaza offensive came hours after Israeli leaders
authorized incursions into areas of the territory they have not yet entered.
Palestinians said they saw Israeli bulldozers leveling farmland and tanks
moving across the border near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The
military ordered Palestinian security to leave their forward positions in the
The Israelis have not entered Khan Younis during the current offensive.
Before Tuesday, Israeli forces had entered southern and northern Gaza and have
approached Gaza City.
Israel launched its offensive on June 28, three days after Palestinian
militants linked to the Hamas-led government captured an Israeli soldier in a
cross-border raid. The operation was expanded last week to halt Palestinian
militants from firing homemade rockets into Israel.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, ordered the
new incursions into Gaza after Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday he would
not free the captive soldier, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit, security officials
said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
Mashaal called Shalit a prisoner of war and demanded a prisoner swap, which
Olmert has ruled out.
Responding to Mashaal's statement, Shalit's father, Noam, called on Hamas to
allow the Red Cross to visit his son. Under Geneva Conventions, the Red Cross is
supposed to have access to prisoners of war.
Israel has demanded the unconditional release of its soldier to end the
The invasion, Israel's largest ground operation in Gaza since withdrawing
from the area last year, has caused widespread destruction, knocked out much of
Gaza's power supply and left more than 50 Palestinians dead, most of them
gunmen. One Israeli soldier has died.
The European Union began delivering aid to Gaza in a bid to repair some of
the damage. Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he had received
$50 million from the Arab League.
It was the first aid delivered under internationally backed funding
restrictions that bypass the Palestinian government led by the militant group
Hamas since March.
Officials said the money had bypassed Hamas because of the international
boycott. The European Union, along with Israel and the U.S., considers Hamas a
Mohammed Awad, the Palestinian Cabinet secretary, said Hamas agreed to allow
Abbas to handle the money. He said the funds would be used to pay civil
servants, who have not received salaries in four months.
The European Commission said it has started delivering $765,000 in monthly
aid to hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the funds, to purchase fuel for emergency
generators at Gaza hospitals, was requested by Abbas after Israel destroyed six
transformers at a power plant during its Gaza offensive. Gaza now has only
sporadic electricity, almost all of it provided by Israel.
In Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the area is "on the verge
of a genuine humanitarian crisis."
"There are shortages of food, fuel and essential needs of Palestinian
citizens," he told his Cabinet, calling on the United Nations, Arab League,
Muslim countries and the rest of the international community to help.
Also on Tuesday, a 15-month-old Palestinian boy injured in an Israeli missile
strike last month died of his wounds at an Israeli hospital.