Israeli incursion in Gaza Strip; At least two houses demolished
The military pressure from Israel on the Palestinians continued early Thursday in the Gaza Strip.
Clashes between troops and armed Palestinian reported after Israeli tanks rolled into the eastern side of Gaza City, Palestinian security sources and witnesses told AFP.
The shooting occured as the tanks moved more than 600 meters (yards) into the Ishi Jayia and al-Muntara districts, which lie in the city's eastern half, they added.
Four tanks and an Israeli bulldozer also staged a brief incursion into the al-Mughazi refugee camp, south of the city, where they demolished two houses, Palestinian security sources said.
After destroying the houses the troops pulled out.
Local residents said one of the houses belonged to a member of Hamas , but Palestinian security sources could not confirm the information.
An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that troops were operating both in the east of Gaza City and in the al-Mughazi refugee camp, but said she could not release further details until the operation had ended.
Two Palestinians were shot dead Wednesday evening near the West Bank cities of Tulkarem and Qalqilyah, apparently because they were suspected of collaborating with Israel, Israel Radio reported Wednesday night. One man was aged 65 and the other 35.
The two were killed by masked gunmen belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, witnesses said. The 35-year-old man had previously been jailed for a month by the Palestinian Authority for security reasons and was known locally for being a "collaborator", they said.
In the case of the 65-year-old Palestinian, sources said it was not clear whether or not he had been a collaborator.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Security Cabinet decided Wednesday that Rachel's Tomb, a disputed West Bank site holy to both Jews and Muslims, would remain under Israeli control.
Jews believe the biblical matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph, was buried at the site, located in Bethlehem about 500 yards from the city's border with Jerusalem. Muslims say there was once a mosque there.
Palestinian neighborhoods, a refugee camp and an Islamic cemetery are located near or next to Rachel's Tomb, AP reported. Jewish pilgrims have in the past flocked to the tomb to pray and seek blessings, but during the two years of fighting such visits have become rare.
Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the tomb would stay under Israeli control in an emerging plan to ring Jerusalem with walls, fences and roadblocks.
Wednesday's announcement was made as part of continued deliberations about Israel's effort to set up a defensive barrier around Jerusalem to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from carrying out attacks.
The plan has angered Palestinians because it would fence in the Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem, adding them to the Israeli side. Israel occupied the Arab section of the city in the 1967 war and later annexed it.
The Palestinian Legislative Council on Wednesday blasted Israel's decision to leave Rachel's Tomb and Atarot Airport under its control, Israeli media reports said. The decision to "annex Rachel's Tomb and Atarot airport" goes against all agreements between the two sides, the council said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)