Hatem Moussa  /  AP
A Palestinian militant launches a rocket-propelled grenade toward Israeli Army vehicles in the Jebalya refugee camp, outside Gaza City, on Thursday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/10/2004 8:45:16 AM ET 2004-09-10T12:45:16

An Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile into the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding at least three Palestinians, witnesses and medics said.

The air strike came on the third day of a large Israeli incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, an operation the army said was aimed at stopping militants from firing makeshift rockets into southern Israel.

In fighting Thursday, scores of gunmen fought a column of tanks and armored vehicles as Israeli troops took up positions in and around the teeming Jabalya camp.

Helicopter gunships fired missiles into the camp of 100,000 inhabitants as Israeli forces sealed it off in Israel’s biggest incursion in the northern Gaza Strip in months.

Five Palestinians were killed, including a nin-year-old boy.

Munir el-Deqqes was shot in the chest while playing with friends outside his grandfather’s house, witnesses said. “How can anyone blame children playing in the street?” said the boy’s uncle. “Munir was a victim of blind Israeli retaliation.”

At least 35 people, including militants and civilians, were wounded by Israeli fire, medics said.

A military source said soldiers had shot only at armed men. It was the latest chapter in Israel’s military response after suicide bombers killed 16 people in southern Israel last week.

The raid marked a widening of Israel’s incursion that began on Wednesday when forces swept in and seized control following a barrage of makeshift rocket strikes in southern Israel.

The latest spiral of violence could further complicate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw troops and settlers from the occupied Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.

Palestinian militants are determined to claim any Israeli pullout as a victory, but Israel has vowed to smash them first.

Fighting penetrates camp
Israel’s army killed 14 Hamas fighters at a Gaza training camp on Tuesday in the deadliest strike ever against the militant Islamic group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

That led Hamas, which carried out a double suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Beersheba on August 31, to vow revenge.

In the second day of its incursion in north Gaza, the army said it penetrated to the first row of homes in eastern Jabalya.

Israeli commanders have usually been reluctant to send forces deep into Jabalya’s cramped alleys, where they would be vulnerable to booby traps and bombs planted by militants.

“We won’t stay there forever,” a senior Israeli official said. “But we have to conduct forays just to keep them (the rocket crews) off balance.”

Medics said troops shot dead five people in Jabalya, including at least one Hamas militant. It was not known if three other dead, all men in their 20s, were militants or civilians.

Israeli forces surrounded Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya — towns that have been frequently raided — on Wednesday and bulldozers tore up stretches of road to cut off the area. By Thursday, shops were getting low on supplies.

Despite the 2-day-old raid, militants managed to fire several primitive Qassam rockets from fenced-in Gaza toward the Israeli town of Sderot. There were no reports of casualties.

The army said soldiers in northern Gaza destroyed three welding machines on Thursday used to make the rockets.

In the West Bank, where Palestinians seek statehood along with Gaza, a military jeep was attacked by stone throwers at al-Amary refugee camp and struck and killed a Palestinian.

Witnesses said the jeep ran over the 18-year-old man repeatedly. Israeli military sources described the incident as an accident, saying the soldiers felt their lives were at risk from the scores of stone throwers and were trying to escape.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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