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Pregnant woman crushed to death in Israeli raid

You tell me, who are the terrorists???

Pregnant woman crushed to death in Israeli raid
by Justin Huggler, Gaza Strip Tuesday March 04, 2003

But a more unpalatable truth lurked in the bullet holes that spattered Peace Street, where 14-year-old Tariq Akil was killed, and in the ruins of the house where Nuha al- Magadmeh, nine-months pregnant, was crushed to death 10 days before she was due to give birth.

04 March 2003


A pregnant woman crushed to death when Israeli soldiers dynamited the house next door; a few streets away a smear of the blood on the road where a boy aged 14 was shot dead by tank fire – this was the scene in the Gaza Strip yesterday, when the Israeli army was celebrating what it considered to be a big success.

During a deep incursion into the Bureij refugee camp, the Israeli army detained Mohammed Taha, the first senior leader of the political wing of Hamas, the Palestinian militant organisation responsible for more suicide bombings than any other, to be arrested.

Also among those captured by the army was a man it said was the deputy of Mohammed Deif, leader of the armed wing of Hamas and Israel's most wanted man. Although Hamas denied the man was Mr Deif's deputy, there was little doubt that the incursion was a heavy blow to the militant group.

But a more unpalatable truth lurked in the bullet holes that spattered Peace Street, where 14-year-old Tariq Akil was killed, and in the ruins of the house where Nuha al- Magadmeh, nine-months pregnant, was crushed to death 10 days before she was due to give birth. These are what armies like to describe as "collateral damage", the civilians who are "unavoidably" killed in the course of a military operation.

Eight Palestinians were killed in the incursion. Local Palestinians said three were unarmed militants – the others were unarmed civilians. They also confirmed Israeli army reports that there had been heavy fighting between Israeli soldiers and armed militants resisting the incursion.

But there were disturbing signs that some of the civilian deaths were not unavoidable – that the Israeli army did not do enough to prevent them.

In the half-ruined house where Ms Magadmeh was crushed to death, her son, Naseem, 12, told us the family was sheltering in one room. "Suddenly there was a big explosion and the wall fell on us," he said. "My mother was crying 'Help me, Shukri [her husband], help me.'

"We were shouting for help from the neighbours but no one could come. My father tried to move pieces of wall." Israeli soldiers had dynamited a neighbouring house, which belonged to the family of a suicide bomber, Sami Abed al-Salam. He had killed himself when he tried to blow up a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in December. The Israeli army routinely demolishes the homes of suicide bombers' families, a practice condemned as collective punishment by human rights groups.

The wall between the house that was blown up and Ms Magadmeh's collapsed on her. But that could have been avoided. "We did not go out because the Israeli soldiers ordered everyone to stay inside over a loudspeaker," said the dead woman's husband, who has a fractured neck. It appears the soldiers evacuated only those inside the house that would be demolished and those living on either side – not those whose houses backed on to the demolished building.

In the neighbouring Nusseirat refugee camp's Peace Street, where Tariq Akil, 14, was killed, his uncle, Usama Akil, told us he was fleeing because one of his relatives is a wanted militant. The entire family had abandoned their house and run, but the boy was the last to leave. As he ran up the street, a tank opened fire.

Mr Akil and other Palestinian witnesses said there was no fighting and no militants in the street at the time. Mr Akil said the fighting was in the next street. It is never possible to confirm such reports with certainty. But the disturbing evidence was lying a few metres up the road: the twisted metal remains of a tank shell. Beside them great rents were blasted out of the asphalt road, and through a gaping hole in the wall you could see through into Rajab Abu Hamdi's living room. The Israeli army fired a tank shell into a civilian house, running a high risk of civilian casualties. Mr Abu Hamdi had cowered in his living room, he told us. "It's a miracle I'm alive." He said there were no militants in the house at the time.

Mr Abu Hamdi said he believed the Israeli tank fired the shell at Tariq Akil. "There was no one else here. They were firing at anything that was moving," he claimed. "If a chicken had been in the street they would have fired at it."

Mohammed al-Rifai said his son Maher, 24, died after he was hit by shrapnel from tank fire when they went to see if they could help the wounded. "He was hit in the chest and in both legs," said the old man, who was injured in the foot." I was two metres from him. They were shooting at us." Mr Rifai said his son was a member of the Palestinian police force but was off duty at the time and was not carrying his gun.

The deaths came a day after a boy aged nine was shot dead during the funeral of two militants killed in the south of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians said he was shot by Israeli soldiers after a group of children started throwing stones at a settlement. The Israeli army said the soldiers had come under fire.

Hamas denied Israeli army claims that the main target of yesterday's operation, Mr Taha, was one of the seven founders of Hamas. Although leaders of the group's armed wing have frequently been arrested and assassinated by the Israeli army, Mr Taha is the first senior leader of the political wing to be detained.


www.news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp

 


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