Eight Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded yesterday afternoon when IDF tanks fired shells at a crowd of protesters in Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Four of those killed were children under 14. Sixty-two people were wounded and about half of them, in a serious condition were taken to hospitals in Khan Yunis.
Those killed were Walid Abu Khmer, 10, Mubarak Al Hashash, 11, Mahmoud Mansour, 13, Ahmad Abu Said, 14, Rageb Barhoum, 18, Mohamed Abu Sha'ar, 20, Ala'a Sheikh Id, 20, and Fuad A-Saka, 31.
At about 1 P.M. after prayers many Rafah residents gathered in the center of the camp and started marching toward Tel Sultan, which has been under curfew since dawn Tuesday when the army began operating there.
In the morning a truck drove around the town calling on people to join the demonstration in solidarity with the besieged quarter and in protest against Israel's activities. The mosques also called to join the demonstration.
Dozens of children marched at the head of the procession. At about 1:45 P.M. the demonstrators reached Zuarob Square, about 500 meters from the entrance to Tel Sultan. From there the road curves leftward, so that the tanks blocking the entrance to the neighborhood could not be seen.
One demonstrator said the children walked past the curve, and saw the tanks. The adults were just behind them and noticed a movement among the tanks. Further down on the right side of the road, past the shops and houses, there was an open field. At this stage two Israeli helicopters circled overhead. One eyewitness said the helicopters fired something that looked like "white balloons."
When the shelling stopped they started carrying the wounded to the nearest Red Crescent station. All the demonstrators denied that there were any armed men among them.
Earlier yesterday five Palestinians, including a 13-year old boy were killed during the IDF's operation in Tel Sultan. Palestinians said soldiers with loudspeakers called on residents to gather at the schools while they were combing the neighborhood. The soldiers called on armed men to raise a white flag and gather at the police station.
Israel gave the American administration clarification of its actions in Rafah. Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon and the prime minister's bureau chief Dov Weisglass briefed senior White House officials on the events.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz yesterday expressed regret for the killing of civilians, but insisted the IDF operation in Rafah was crucial and would "continue for as long as it remains necessary according to the evaluation of the situation and results achieved in the near future."
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