Home>News Center>World

Israel presses Gaza offensive despite world outcry
Updated: 2004-05-20 08:44

Israeli troops and tanks pushed further into the besieged Rafah refugee camp on Thursday despite international outrage at the killing of at least 36 Palestinians in the bloodiest Gaza raid in years.

Israeli troops pushed into another neighborhood of the Gaza Strip's besieged Rafah refugee camp early on May 20, 2004 in the third day of an offensive, witnesses and military sources said.  [Reuters]
The U.N. Security Council, convened at the behest of Arabs incensed at what they branded a "war crime," passed a resolution urging an end to violence after Israeli forces killed up to 10 Palestinians, many of them youths, at a peaceful protest. Unusually, Israel's U.S. ally did not use its veto to block the U.N. resolution, abstaining from the vote, and President Bush urged restraint from the Jewish state.

But Israel, whose forces stormed the militant hotbed after losing 13 soldiers in Gaza last week, looked undeterred.

Troops pushed into the Rafah districts of Brazil and As-Salam, along the border with Egypt, where the army says it is hunting tunnels used by smugglers bringing weapons to fight a Palestinian revolt since 2000.

A helicopter strike near an olive grove killed at least three militants and wounded two others, witnesses said. Flames licked into the night sky from a burning building.

International outrage rose to a crescendo on Wednesday when Israeli tanks and helicopters fired toward protesters demanding aid. Medics said 10 Palestinians were killed and more than 50 hurt, many of them youths. The army put the death toll at seven.


"It was horrifying," said demonstrator Mahmoud Abu Hashem, 35. "There was one person with his intestines coming out. Another had blood covering his face and you couldn't even make out his features."

Troops said they did not aim to hit the rally, but tank fire intended to repel protesters might have caused casualties.

Angry Palestinian women demonstrate May 18, 2004 at UN office in Gaza City to support Rafah residents. [AP]
Violence has spiked since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed evacuating troops and Jewish settlers in a plan backed by most Israelis and the United States, but rejected by his right-wing Likud party in a referendum this month.

Palestinian militants want to claim as a victory any pullout by Israel from territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, but the army is determined to smash them first.

The deaths in Thursday's advance meant at least 36 Palestinians had been killed since the start of the raid.

In a rare rebuke for Israel from the White House, Bush urged restraint and said "It is essential people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Israel's actions had made the peace process with the Palestinians more difficult.

"I believe the activities of the Israeli defense forces in Gaza in recent days have caused a problem and have worsened the situation," he said.

A U.N. human rights envoy accused Israel of war crimes while the EU condemned the attack as "completely disproportionate."

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called the strike a "war crime" against peaceful demonstrators, demanded punishment for those responsible and appealed for international intervention.

Israel raised an uproar abroad with threats to flatten hundreds of Rafah homes to widen an army-controlled security corridor along the border with Egypt.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Authorities to monitor price shifts before rate decision



China can feed its own people



Shanxi mine blasts kill 24, trap 23 others



Experts: Mainland has seen through Chen



Beijing to open RMB business to foreign banks



US attacks wedding party, kills 40 Iraqis


  Israel presses Gaza offensive despite world outcry
  India's Congress drums up support for Singh as PM
  Honduran troops complete withdrawal from Iraq
  Rafah residents 'living in hell'
  Iraqis demand more power, US holds abuse trial
  Israel kills 20 Palestinians in big Gaza raid
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Rafah residents 'living in hell'
Israel kills 20 Palestinians in big Gaza raid
Israel hits Gaza, isolates Rafah for demolitions
Collaborators tremble since Hamas killings
Israeli missiles strike Fatah office in Gaza
  News Talk  
  Scandal over humiliation of Iraqi prisoners