BEIT HANUN, Gaza – Israeli occupation forces bombarded Wednesday, November 8, houses in the battered northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun, killing nineteen Palestinians, including seven children and four women, in their sleep.
"Israeli fire killed 18 people, including women and children," said Khaled Radi, a Palestinian health ministry spokesman, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Less than an hour, another Palestinian was confirmed dead in the bloody Israeli onslaught.
Witnesses said Israeli shells struck at least seven houses in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, killing people as they slept.
Thirteen members of one family were killed in the Israeli attack, witnesses said.
"It is the saddest scene and images I have ever seen. We saw legs, we saw heads, we saw hands scattered in the street," 22-year-old Attaf Hamad, a witness, told Reuters.
Pools of blood lay in the streets of Beit Hanoun as pieces of flesh and the small sandals of children were strewn about.
At least 40 people had been wounded in the Israeli onslaught, the health ministry said.
The Israeli government not only said the long-running onslaught would continue but also authorized security services to be ready to launch a large operation.
The ongoing Gaza offensive came as Israeli troops shot five Palestinians dead in the West Bank in another raid near Jenin, Palestinian security sources said.
More than 290 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched a wide-scale offensive in Gaza on the pretext of seeking the release of a soldier captured by Palestinian resistance groups to swap for Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails.
UN special envoy for human rights, John Dugard, has accused Israel of "collective punishment" of the Palestinians.
The latest deaths bring to 5,554 the number of people killed since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada against the Israeli occupation in September 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinians, according to an AFP count.
Palestinian resistance groups vowed to avenge the palstinian vctims.
"The reaction is coming. (Israel) prepare the coffins and black body bags," Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader, told an agitated crowd outside a morgue in Beit Hanoun.
"Revenge for the blood of martyrs is coming … We urge our mujahideen to resume bombing attacks in Jaffa, in Haifa, in Ashdod, every place in our homeland."
The Islamic Jihad group also pledged to carry out revenge bombing operations.
The pre-dawn massacre triggered retaliation vows from not only Hamas and Jihad, but also Fatah.
"We call the (Fatah-linked) Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the armed branches of all the Palestinian movements to resume martyrdom operations in Israel," Fatah spokesman Jamal Obeid told AFP.
Palestinian resistance groups have for months been observing a unilateral truce that saw a halt for bombing attacks inside Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Beit Hanun a disaster area and slammed "international silence" in the face of incessant Israeli crimes.
"This is a black day in the history of Israeli actions against the Palestinian people and is a reminder of all the massacres perpetuated by Israel since the start of the Israeli-Arab conflict," the Palestinian leader told a press conference in Gaza City.
"We fully condemn the international silence and those who justify acts committed by Israel," he said.
Abbas accused Israel of having destroyed all chances of peace with this "horrible and ugly massacre".
"You (the Israelis) do not want peace at all. You have destroyed all chances of peace and you should bear all the responsibility," said an angry Abbas.
"Our people are at the end of our tether. We need to speak up to tell the world, from the UN to Europe, to examine these acts of atrocity committed by Israel because a worldwide reaction is needed to bring them to an end."
Abbas announced three days of national mourning over the dead.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called for an urgent session of the United Nations in response to the offensive.
© IslamOnline.net, Nov 8, 2006.