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Palestinian girl, 10, dies during offensive into Gaza

Sat., Oct. 9, 2004

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Soldiers shot and killed a 10-year-old Palestinian girl and three other Palestinians died in missile strikes Friday during Israel’s massive offensive into the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The deaths brought to 89 the number of Palestinians killed since Israel began the offensive Sept. 29 to stop Palestinian militants from launching homemade rockets into Israel. Almost half of the dead were civilians and 18 were age 16 or under.

The latest casualty came late Friday as an Israeli helicopter fired a missile at militants planting an explosive device in the Jebaliya refugee camp, a focal point of the offensive, the army said.

Witnesses said the blast went off near a crowd of people gathered in the street, killing one man and severely wounding another. The men were dressed in civilian clothes and were not armed, medics said.

A helicopter fired another missile hours later in the village of Beit Lahiya, blowing up a mine but causing no injuries, witnesses said. The strike came as about 15 Israeli tanks, backed by machine gun fire, moved toward the village, apparently attempting to enter it for the first time during the offensive.

Earlier, 10-year-old Samah Samir Nassar was shot in the stomach and the left leg as she stood on the street in front of her home. She was taken to a clinic, where she was pronounced dead, medical officials said.

The Israeli army said Palestinian militants in the area fired three anti-tank missiles at soldiers who returned fire, but it was unclear if this exchange was what led to the girl’s death.

Later Friday, an Israeli helicopter shot a missile at three militants as they tried to plant an explosive northeast of the Jebaliya refugee camp, a focal point of the offensive, the army said. The army said the missile hit at least two of the militants.

Residents said the missile hit an area where militants and civilians had gathered, killing two people.


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