Israeli Gaza Strip raid leaves 400 families homeless
Israel's three-day military operation in a Gaza Strip refugee camp has left around 400 Palestinian families homeless, according to local officials Monday.
Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border on Sunday, after a three-day operation the military claimed was aimed at finding and destroying weapons smuggling tunnels.
Rafah Mayor Saed Zoarub, cited by the AP, said Monday that between 100 and 120 houses were destroyed and another 70 damaged, leaving about 400 families homeless.
A senior UN official who surveyed the damage said Sunday it looked like there had been a severe earthquake at the camp south of Rafah, the BBC reported.
"It would appear between 100 and 120 shelters/houses were completely destroyed or demolished ... If these initial estimates are correct, it will mean we will have some 1,500 persons added to the homeless roll in Rafah," Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency told the BBC.
The area targeted was the camp's Yabena neighborhood, next to the Gaza-Egypt border. Several of the houses were blown up, while the remainder were destroyed by Israeli army bulldozers.
It marked the largest-scale demolition in a single raid since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting three years ago.
On its part, the Israeli military said it did not know how many houses were demolished in the latest Rafah raid, but that about thirty of the structures were uninhabited and used as cover by "gunmen".
The military further said that other houses were razed because they were located atop or near tunnels. Also, some structures were damaged in the fighting, the army said, adding that Palestinians fired grenades and anti-tank missiles and that soldiers returned fire. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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