15 Palestinian Militants Killed in Gaza

[Ha'aretz] Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury - In fighting Tuesday in Gaza, 19 Palestinians were reported killed, 15 of whom were confirmed to be armed militants. One was Hussam Zahar, son of the former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar, considered to be a firebrand and one of the leaders of the more extremist wing of Hamas, with close ties to its military wing. Israeli security sources emphasized Tuesday that Hussam's killing had not been planned. He was among a group of Hamas gunmen and was killed in an exchange of fire with IDF forces. The Hamas militants killed Tuesday lost their lives in fighting with IDF forces or because they had been targeted while they tried to launch rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli towns. The IDF's current modus operandi in Gaza is characterized by ground forces raids, limited in both time and scope, and in targeted interceptions of militants in the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, as well as Hamas rocket crews. Senior sources in the defense establishment said Tuesday that this could change if the escalation in rocket attacks continues. The firing of the Katyusha rocket at Ashkelon, the second instance in recent weeks, is evidence the city is permanently within the scope of Hamas. The IDF entered Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood Tuesday to hunt for cells that fire mortars at Israel, and succeeded in hitting two such cells. When Hamas sent in forces to fight the soldiers, it lost 13 men in the ensuing battle. Faced with mounting public criticism, Mahmoud Abbas was forced to denounce the "massacre" in Gaza, even though the vast majority of those killed were armed fighters. Abbas is worried about being seen as an Israeli collaborator, while Hamas paints itself as a patriotic organization that fights Israel.

2008-01-16 01:00:00

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