7 children killed on their way to pick strawberries

January 7th, 2005  

Topic: 7 children killed on their way to pick strawberries

and this is why terrorism will never die


Seven children die in crossfire as Israelis target suspected militants
Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem | Wednesday January 5, 2005 | The Guardian

Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to win Sunday's election for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, condemned "the Zionist enemy" yesterday after seven children on their way to pick strawberries were mistaken for Palestinian militants and killed by Israeli tank shells.
The tanks used anti-personnel shells, which throw out thousands of metal darts in a deadly cloud. Children aged 10, 12, 13 and 14 and three 17-year-olds were killed. A further 11 people were injured, four critically.

The attack took place near Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, from where militants had been firing mortars at Israeli positions on the Gaza border, injuring one person.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said in recent weeks 50 mortar shells had been fired at Israeli positions.

"It's unacceptable that there should be attacks upon civilians. A group of six to eight masked men were spotted firing a mortar and preparing to fire another. We opened fire and we saw we had hit them."

In Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, where nine Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops at the weekend, Mr Abbas said: "We came to you today, while we are praying for the souls of the martyrs who were killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy in Beit Lahiya."

Normally Mr Abbas, or Abu Mazen as he is better known, adopts a more conciliatory tone, but in the election campaign he has sought to identify with militants while at the same time calling for a halt to their activity.

On Monday, in Gaza, he urged militants to stop firing missiles at Israeli targets because it gave Israel an excuse to attack them. Ehud Olmert, Israeli deputy prime minister, said Abu Mazen's reference to the "Zionist enemy" was intolerable. Fighting in Gaza has intensified as militants fire more missiles at Israeli posi tions and the Israeli forces retaliate.

Witnesses confirmed that militants had been firing mortars in the fields where the farmers were heading but they had dispersed by the time the tank shells were fired.

Yehiye Ghaben, 29, a relative of six of the dead, said the clash began when five or six masked men fired rockets from the strawberry patch. As the militants were leaving, Israeli troops fired machine guns and tank shells.

"The only thing I remember were flying body parts, and a bloody arm hit my chest," he said. Dr Muhammad Sultan of the Beit Lahiya hospital said he had received 18 casualties. Seven were dead, three of whom were brothers.

Four of the patients were in a critical condition. Two had double leg amputations and one a single amputation.

"First we received two legs and then a head which was unrecognisable. I know the families of the victims and I know they are farmers who are not involved in politics," the doctor said.

Six of the dead came from the Ghaben extended family who had farmed the area for generations.

When the coffins of the three brothers arrived at the Ghaben home, an aunt, Amina, opened one box and smeared blood from the body on her clothes as an act of grieving. "Is that an adult? It's a child," she said. "He went in the morning to help his father and brothers pick strawberries."

An Israeli soldier is to be court-martialled for urging comrades to refuse orders to remove Jewish settler buildings in the Gaza strip. Settlers have warned that thousands of soldiers could refuse to evacuate settlements under the prime minister Ariel Sharon's plan to abandon the Gaza strip and some of the northern West Bank this year.

The soldier was arrested in scuffles on Monday between settlers in the West Bank.