Israel Kills 2, Destruction Scale Revealed

Despite a unilateral ceasefire, Israeli occupation troops killed two Palestinian civilians in the bombed-out Gaza Strip on Sunday, January 18.

Medics said an eight-year-old girl was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the northern town of Beit Hanun, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

A young Palestinian, 20, was also shot in the chest as he was travelling in a vehicle near the southern town of Khan Yunis.

Scores of Palestinians were injured when Israeli troops fired at families tricking back to their homes.

The new deaths are the first Palestinian fatalities since Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert announced late Saturday a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza.

More than 1,300 Palestinians, including 410 children, have been killed by Israel since December 27.

Palestinian medics pulled 95 bodies, including several children, from the rubble in Gaza early Sunday.

Palestinian groups, angered by Israel’s decision not to withdraw its troops, fired ten rockets and three mortar shells into southern Israel since Sunday morning.

Reacting to the salvoes, Israel Air Force aircraft attacked what was described as rocket launchers in Gaza.

"We hit the launcher that had fired rockets into Israel," said an Israeli army spokesman.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Sunday for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Gaza and an end to Palestinian rocket fire.


Displaced families, shocked at the scale of destruction in the Strip, have little faith in Israel’s respect of the ceasefire.

"The Jews are liars. I don’t believe them," Latifa Ghaban, 56, whose son was killed in an Israeli shelling in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, told AFP.

"They’ll say there is a ceasefire and then continue the shelling."

Ghaban, who now takes shelter with her children at a UN-run school, doesn’t dare return back home.

"We will not return to our house unless there is an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and a complete stop to the war," she stressed.

"The Jews struck our house, they killed my son and they wounded my husband.

"I won’t return because I am scared for the rest of my children."

Ahlam, a 31-year-old teacher who fled to a UN-run school from the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, shares similar concerns.

"There is no point in having a unilateral ceasefire," she said.

"We fled from our home because of the bombing from the planes and the shelling from the tanks.

"We won’t even think about returning unless there is an agreement between Hamas and Israel."

Ashraf Ashur, whose shop in Tel al-Hawa was destroyed in an Israeli attack, is waiting to see whether the ceasefire would hold.

"I might go to the shop for an hour tomorrow and keep doing that for a few days to see how things go, if there are strikes from Israel or not," said the 22-year-old merchant.

"If the strikes continue, I’ll never go back."


But thousands of shell-shocked residents surveyed the debris of Israel’s deadliest offensive ever launched on Gaza.

"I came to see my home, but as you can see, there is no home here anymore," said Yahia Karin, a 54-year-old resident of Zeitun neighborhood, pointing to the charred ruins of his residence.

Some of the heaviest clashes between Israeli troops and resistance fighters occurred in Zeitun — and the scars of war are everywhere to be seen.

Surrounding buildings are marked by charred traces of tank shells while black automobile carcasses line a street pockmarked by huge gaping holes.

"Everything has been completely destroyed," said Karin amid piles of dusty rubble and twisted metal.

"I ask Olmert — why did you destroy my home? I’m not Hamas, I’m not in any faction. I’m a civilian. I want peace," he said, choked by emotion.

"It’s a massacre not only against our people, but also against our homes."

In Tal Al-Hawa another resident glanced around the depressing landscape.

"Everywhere I look there is rubble. There is still smoke rising from some places. The roads and buildings have huge gaping holes," said Jumma Nasser, 62.

In the southern city of Khan Yunis, Mohammed Al-Najar sought desperately to find him home — in vain — in the rubble.

"At least 20 residential houses are completely destroyed in our neighborhood," he said.

"I came to see my home. I searched for it. There is no home. I don’t even know where my home is."

( and Agencies)

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