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Home >> World
UPDATED: 09:26, August 17, 2006
Ceasefire brings no respite to Gaza
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The death of two Palestinians in an Israeli airstrike yesterday drew attention to the ongoing fighting in Gaza, which has been largely overshadowed by the ceasefire in Lebanon.

An Israeli aircraft fired a missile into a house in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early in the morning, killing a Palestinian militant and his father, witnesses and medics said.

The Israeli army said it had targeted a weapons storage facility and warned everyone inside to leave before the attack.

Residents identified the dead as a militant from the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and his father, whom they said was not a member of the group.

At least 10 other people were wounded, some in the house and others from neighbouring homes damaged by the explosion, medics said.

Meanwhile in the northern Gaza Strip, Israel soldiers searched for tunnels and what an army spokesman described as "other threats" near the Israeli-built border fence.

Residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun said Israeli bulldozers protected by tanks uprooted orchards and greenery and soldiers detained six people. Militants have used northern Gaza as a launching ground for rocket attacks on southern Israel.

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers opened fire on two Palestinian gunmen attempting to cross the border from southern Gaza into Israel, an Israeli army spokesman said.

Palestinian medics later recovered the body of one of the militants. The fate of the second man was unclear.

The ongoing violence in Gaza, which began two weeks before the conflict in Lebanon when Hamas militants kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, shows no sign of abating despite the uneasy ceasefire which has settled on southern Lebanon.

Cost for Lebanon

Lebanese refugees are flooding back to their homes, and workers have begun rebuilding the shattered country.

The Centre for Economic Research in Beirut predicts repair and reconstruction costs will rise above US$7bn.

In the southern port of Tyre yesterday workers started digging a mass grave for more than 100 unidentified people killed during the war.

Hospital officials said the bodies would be buried unless relatives claimed them. Seventy-two corpses were buried in the same place on July 21, to clear overflowing hospital morgues.

Relief agencies are trying to assist refugees who have returned to the area, as well as up to 120,000 people who remained south of the Litani River, some only 20 kilometres from the Israeli border, during the war.

"We've made it as far as Rmeish but there are still other villages further along that haven't been reached," said David Orr, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

During the conflict, the village was cut off, with no fuel to pump water from the well, forcing people to drink pond water at one stage.

"In the town of Aita al-Shaab, 90-95 per cent of the town has been flattened," he said. "They had been shelled from over the border and then when the Israelis came into Lebanon they continued to pound it with tanks and airstrikes."

Fears have also been raised of a possible ecological disaster sparked by the conflict.

Up to 30,000 tons of oil leaked out into the Mediterranean after Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of Beirut.

Oil already coats the Lebanese coastline in several places and yesterday Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Fotis Fotiou warned it could float to other parts of the Mediterranean.

"Maybe at this moment we have not seen oil spill in our waters but we do care about the ecological catastrophe already caused in the area," he said.

"We must not forget the Mediterranean is a closed basin and sooner or later the ecological catastrophe will affect us too."

Fotiou asked Finnish Minister of Environment, whose country holds rotating presidency of the European Union, to convene a special meeting to tackle the issue.

Israeli reaction

Despite the widespread devastation wreaked in Lebanon, many Israelis are unhappy with their nation's lack of success in the war.

In the aftermath of the fighting both sides rushed to claim victory.

Yet 66 per cent of Israelis polled by the Maariv newspaper believed no one won the war.

Another poll published yesterday in the Yedioth Aronoth daily showed that 41 per cent believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should resign, while 57 per cent want Defence Minister Amir Peretz to go.

Except for Israel's ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, the nation suffered heavier civilian casualties in the Lebanon conflict than in any other fighting since the war at the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

And the fighting may not yet be over with Israeli army chiefs yesterday quoted as saying they are prepared to keep troops in southern Lebanon for "months," if it takes that long for an international peace-keeping force to deploy.

Source: China Daily

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