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Israeli tank shells `kill 18 Palestinians in sleep`
By Ibrahim Barzak, AP
The Independent
08 November 2006

Israeli tank shells killed at least 18 people in their sleep when they landed in Gaza early today, witnesses report. Eight children were said to be among the dead.

Khaled Radi, a health ministry official, said of the 18 dead, 13 were from the same family. He said at least 40 more were wounded, all civilians after the attack on a residential neighbourhood north of Beit Hanoun.

Palestinian hospital officials said there were several more injured. According to witnesses, all those killed were women and children.

Four hospitals are treating the wounded across Gaza.

Palestinian security officials said that five tank shells landed in the area within 15 minutes. Most the casualties were caused to a row of homes belonging to members of one family.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas strongly condemned the attack.

`This is a horrible, ugly massacre committed by the occupation against our children, our women and elderly in Beit Hanoun,` he said in a statement. `We urge and call the security council to convene immediately to stop the massacres committed against our people and to uphold their responsibility to stop these massacres.`.

The Palestinian cabinet convened for an emergency meeting.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad called for Israel to be expelled from the United Nations, calling it an `animal, brutal state.`

In a huge demonstration outside the morgue at the Kamal Adwan hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, thousands called for revenge.

`We are going to fight against the so-called Israel. We are going to launch our rockets, our martyrs are going to sacrifice their lives in the depths of our occupied land,` said Nizar Rayan, a Hamas leader in northern Gaza. `They will strike in Jaffa, in Haifa, inside Ashdod. The battle will continue. The rifle is not going to be set down. All of us are martyrs in waiting. revenge is coming.`

The Islamic Jihad militant group also called for revenge after the tank attack.

`Martyrdom is coming,` it said in a statement, referring to suicide bombings. `The response will not take long, because the time is ready for punishment, and the time is ready for revenge.`

The Israeli army had immediate comment on the attack.

Thousands gathered outside hospitals weeping as the bodies arrived. Witnesses said that many of the dead arrived in their sleeping clothes. Schoolchildren swept out to the street to protest the attack as mosques broadcast angry speeches on the street.

Dozens of schoolchildren were trying to storm an empty EU mission building in Gaza City, according to witnesses, throwing stones and bottles. Palestinian security is trying to prevent them from entering the building.

Rahwi Hamad, 75, said he was awoken by the sound of explosions at about 5:15 a.m. and emerged from his home to find body parts and pools of blood in the streets.

`I saw people coming out of the house, bleeding and screaming. I carried a girl covered with blood,` he said. `Inside the houses, we evacuated dismembered bodies. We saw legs, hands, parts of heads stuck to the wall. Everything was disgusting. this is the worst, bloody scene I have ever scene.`

The shelling came after Israeli attacks in Gaza and the West Bank killed at least 15 people following a pullout from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun at the end of a bloody weeklong sweep.

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