Civilian Deaths from Shelling Anger Palestinians

Palestinians in Gaza mourn 18 civilians killed Wednesday by an Israeli shell in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Israeli officials have expressed regret for the killings. Palestinian militant groups are threatening revenge.

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Palestinians in Gaza are in mourning today, one day after an Israeli shelling killed 18 civilians in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Israeli officials have expressed regret for the killings. Palestinian militant groups are threatening revenge.

NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza as the 18 Palestinians killed yesterday; 13 of the members of one extended family are being buried today. The mood in Beit Hanoun is angry. Six days of an Israeli incursion left more than 60 Palestinians dead and much of the town in ruins.

Then yesterday, less than 24 hours after the Israeli troops withdrew, errant artillery shells hit a residential compound in Beit Hanoun. Palestinians in Beit Hanoun are describing the Israeli attack as a massacre and yesterday as a black day. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.

Israeli officials expressed regret over the incident and Defense Minster Amir Peretz ordered the army to suspend artillery shelling on Gaza. A preliminary report found the artillery shells landed about 500 yards off course.

Israel raised its security level after members of militant groups, including the ruling Hamas, called for renewed attacks inside Israel. Hamas has not carried out a suicide bombing since 2004. Israeli military officials say they started the incursion into Beit Hanoun to limit Qassam rocket fire on southern Israel, but the Qassam rockets continued to fall.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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