In Gaza, Passions Mount over New Violence
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Israeli troops and tanks pulled out of Gaza early this morning after several days of attacks in densely populated neighborhoods. Israel says it's going after Palestinians who were firing homemade missiles and searching for a captured Israeli soldier. The Palestinians say Israel has been indiscriminate in its actions.
NPR's Mike Shuster reports.
MIKE SHUSTER reporting:
It's chaos in the streets today in the Magazzi(ph) district in Central Gaza. Israeli tanks and troops entered this district in the middle of the night on Tuesday and the resulting actions left 15 Palestinians dead and 150 wounded. Yesterday Israeli aircraft fired rockets into the district. They landed just outside Abu Uday's(ph) corner house.
Mr. ABU UDAY (Gaza resident): (Through translator) In this area where we're standing now, yesterday there were six civilian totally unarmed. Him and the other family members from the house, they tried to warn them not to go further more, so one of the tanks shelled them with a rocket and killed all six people over here. Even you see the blood and this one, a rocket from the plane, small rocket from the plane.
SHUSTER: A little further down the street is the house of Abu Muhammad, an unemployed furniture maker. Israeli tanks surrounded his house. He and his wife and five children hid in their bedroom. Abu Muhammad holds his daughter Gadir(ph) as he describes what happened.
Mr. ABU MUHAMMED (Gaza resident): (Through translator) She was screaming, running. She was so scared. A lots tense of times all over Magazzi. They were shooting in random. We couldn't move in our house. It wasn't safe even to stay in the house. Many shrapnel fall on the house.
SHUSTER: The Israeli army says it was targeting Palestinian gunmen and buildings that concealed weapons. The Palestinians insist there were few militants with guns in the neighborhood. There were hundreds of gunmen out in the streets today though, some dressed in black and masked. Others dressed in military greens shooting their automatic weapons in the air.
The crowd carried the bodies of the dead wrapped in white shrouds and draped with the green flags of Hamas to the local mosque. The mood of the crowd was angry, eager for revenge. One teacher, also called Abu Muhammad, said he does not believe the Israelis when they say they only target gunmen.
Mr. ABU MUHAMMED (Gaza resident): What about the women? What about the kids, the small kids? And here one of the first aids of the ambulance, they killed one. Are they fighting the Israeli army? Only they want revenge. They are facing many two big problem in (unintelligible). They want revenge upon our people.
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
SHUSTER: With the Israeli pull back, the militants are free to roam the streets and express their outrage, but there is also frustration that the battle in Gaza has now been overshadowed by Israel's war in Lebanon. People here have mixed feelings about that. Some feel that Hezbollah came to the aid of the Palestinians when no one else in the Arab world would. Nonetheless, the Israeli military offensive in Gaza has continued with many Palestinian casualties.
In the view of Dr. Jama al-Saka(ph) at the Al-Shifa Hospital here, the war in Lebanon is getting all the attention.
Dr. JAMA Al-SAKA (Al-Shifa hospital): Why international community is (unintelligible) watching what is happening to Palestinians. Why they stopped humanitarian aids to Palestinians. No relation between Hezbollah and Palestine in their action, but the action of Hezbollah is similar to that what happened in Gaza. We are defending our land and Hezbollah is defending his land.
SHUSTER: Today Israel continued to apply the pressure. Its gunboats shelled several spots along Gaza's Mediterranean coast and Israeli artillery were also active, hitting one house, killing a Palestinian gunmen and several members of his family.
Mike Shuster, NPR News, Gaza.
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