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News :: International
Death Toll from Israel's Gaza Offensive Rises to 100
14 Oct 2004
"Rockets were never fired from among our houses and not from my garlic store," said Anwar al-Shafai, 60, gazing at the rubble of his business. It seems to us that Sharon's so-called unilateral withdrawal will be only an illusion. An Israeli bulldozer uprooted the graves of my mother and uncle. I will have to rebury their remains."
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes killed five Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday as the Palestinian death toll rose to 100 in a 16-day-old army offensive aimed a crushing militants behind rocket salvoes into Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seeks a decisive triumph over militants to overcome rightist opposition to his plan to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians by evacuating all Jewish settlers from Gaza and a few from the West Bank in 2005.
Polls show most Israelis support Sharon's withdrawal strategy, regarding Gaza as too costly in lives and money, and he plans to submit his plan to a parliamentary vote on Oct. 25.
Hawks inside and outside Sharon's fraying coalition reject any pullback from territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war as "appeasement of Palestinian terrorism."
Settlers and their political patrons planned a series of protests around Israel later on Thursday.
Missiles killed two Hamas gunmen in the sprawling urban Jabalya refugee camp in north Gaza, stormed by more than 200 tanks and troop carriers after a Hamas rocket killed two toddlers across the border in Israel on Sept. 29.
Helicopters backing up an army raid into Rafah refugee camp in Gaza's south fired three missiles, killing two militants and a civilian man of 70, medics and residents said. A woman was seriously wounded.
Military sources said Israeli forces targeted gunmen who had just launched an anti-tank rocket at troops searching for tunnels used to smuggle in weapons from Egypt.
Israel's offensive, its biggest in Gaza during the Palestinian uprising, has killed at least 59 militants with most of the other 41 dead believed to be civilians, medics say.
Three Israelis and a Thai farmworker have also died.
Sharon, indirectly addressing nationalist critics, declared at a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that the Gaza offensive would continue and "be expanded if there is a need for it."
DEMOLITIONS LEAVE HOMELESS
Officials with the U.N. agency caring for Palestinian refugees said Israeli armored bulldozers demolished about 30 houses in Rafah, leaving about 40 families homeless.
The camp is, like Jabalya, a frequent tinderbox in the four-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Israeli forces often raze Palestinian buildings they say harbor militants who fire at them or, in Rafah's case, camouflage smuggling tunnels. Palestinians and human rights groups denounce the practice as collective punishment.
Troops hunting elusive Hamas rocket squads in the north Gaza town of Beit Lahiya carved a trail of destruction on Thursday.
About 20 houses were seriously damaged and tanks broke up asphalt roads and water pipes, squashed cars and taxis, churned up dozens of hectares of olive and strawberry groves, and downed electricity and telephone lines.
"Rockets were never fired from among our houses and not from my garlic store," said Anwar al-Shafai, 60, gazing at the rubble of his business. "It seems to us that Sharon's so-called unilateral withdrawal will be only an illusion."
"An Israeli bulldozer uprooted the graves of my mother and uncle. I will have to rebury their remains. Unbelievable," said Omar Khalil Omar, a local poet.
Gaza militants have cranked up gun, rocket and mortar attacks of late, hoping to show that they chased out the Israelis from occupied lands.
Sharon is determined to batter them into quiescence first and intends to hold on to swathes of the West Bank with most of the 240,000 settlers as a trade-off for dumping smaller Gaza.
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