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UPDATED: 20:46, November 03, 2006
Israeli "Cloud of Autumn" operation expands, 23 killed
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Palestinian medics said on Friday that 23 people, including militants, women and children, were killed as the Israeli army ground military operation called "Cloud of Autumn " went on in northern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army stormed early Wednesday the border town of Beit Hanoun between northern Gaza Strip and Israel.

Residents in the town said on Friday that Israeli forces had completely seized the town and imposed a curfew on it, and the town had witnessed clashes between militants and Israeli soldiers.

Joma'a al-Saqqa, chief of emergency at Shiffa Hospital in Gaza City, said that the Israeli army killed on Friday seven Palestinians, four of them women and children.

Of the dead, two women were from a parade of woman demonstrators, who gathered and marched toward the occupied town from nearby towns and refugee camps in northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers opened fire and dispersed them when they approached the besieged town, killing two women and wounding 15 others, according to witnesses.

Local residents also said that Israeli snipers shot dead on Friday morning two Palestinian teens, residents of the town, and wounded five others.

Meanwhile, witnesses and security sources said that an Israeli army reconnaissance drone fired one missile at a car driving east of Gaza City, killing three Hamas militants.

The Israeli army killed eight people on Wednesday and another eight and on Thursday, Al-Saqqa said, adding that so far, 23 people have been killed in northern Gaza Strip.

Residents said that in Beit Hanoun, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles were stationed on major crossroads, adding that sounds of shooting and gunfire could be heard all the time.

According to residents, Israeli army bulldozers demolished a mosque in the town, where about 50 militants were believed to be hiding up. The militants, however, managed to flee the mosque, according to the residents.

The Israeli army also called on males aged between 16 and 45 to gather in the playground of a school in the town and detained at least 100, residents said.

The Israeli army said in a statement that the aim of the operation in the town was to curb rampant homemade rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant groups from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for firing dozens of homemade rockets and mortar shells at Israeli communities in southern Israel as well as firing missiles at Israeli army vehicles.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, an Israeli army unit arrested Abdel Rahman Zeidan, minister of Work and Municipal Affairs in the Hamas-led government, from his home.

Since the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in Gaza on June 25, Israel has detained many Palestinians ministers and lawmakers, most of them from the ruling Hamas movement.

In the city of Nablus in northern West Bank, an Israeli army force on Friday shot dead a 15-year-old boy, the brother of a militant from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in an attack on their home.

Source: Xinhua

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