By Hisham Abu Taha
GAZA CITY – A 12-year-old boy was among eight Palestinians who were killed when Israeli tanks, bulldozers and helicopters streamed into Gaza City yesterday wreaking havoc and unleashing carnage in the besieged territory.
The boy, Ryad Al-Ewesi, was huddling with dozens of other children near the Burije refugee camp when he was fatally hit by the Israelis. Six other civilians were killed when a house in the same area was hit by tank and helicopter fire. Palestinian medics said the boy was shot in the abdomen and chest.
Ten tanks and two armored bulldozers, backed by two US-made assault helicopters, entered Gaza early yesterday, drawing heavy resistance from Palestinian fighters, medics said.
An Israeli Army spokeswoman confirmed forces were operating in the Palestinian territory and had come under gun and mortar fire.
The previous night, two Hamas fighters were killed in an airstrike in southern Gaza.
Israel has vowed to “settle the score” with Hamas for a border attack that killed two Israeli civilians on Wednesday, following a month of relative calm in and around Gaza. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for that attack; three other groups said they carried it out. But Israel blames Hamas because it controls Gaza.
“I promise you that the response against Hamas will be such that Hamas will be no longer able to act against Israeli citizens,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday.
Hamas said such statements clearly showed Israel was preparing the ground for a new military operation against Gaza.
Gaza fighters on Wednesday breached the border with Israel under cover of mortar fire, killing two Israeli contractors at the Nahal Oz oil terminal that provides the Palestinian territory with its fuel supplies.
Israel said it temporarily shut down the terminal, but insisted it would continue providing minimal fuel supplies to the Palestinian territory that has been under a crippling blockade for months.
Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri warned Israel against further tightening the blockade of the territory, saying “all options are open before our people to break the siege.”
“We threaten nobody, but we say the siege must be lifted before it is too late. If there will be an explosion nothing will stand before our people — neither borders nor dams,” Masri said.
Hamas this week threatened to storm Gaza’s borders in a repeat of a breach in January that sent hundreds of thousands of weary Palestinians streaming into Egypt to stock up on goods they can’t get at home because of a tight Israeli-imposed embargo.
Egypt has since brought in extra troops to reinforce its border with Gaza.
And authorities at the Suez Canal were limiting the number of trucks being allowed to proceed onward to the border in order to prevent shops there from overstocking in anticipation of another breakout. While violence threatened to erupt again in Gaza, Olmert reiterated that talks with Abbas could lead to a historic peace deal this year, but that he did not believe it could be implemented at this stage. “The first step of offering hope to us and the Palestinians can and should be done, and we will do every effort to succeed this year,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that a Moscow peace conference would give a “second wind” to peace efforts in the region.
(Arab News – www.arabnews.com – with input from agencies)