Israeli Forces Kill 10 Protesters in Gaza

Title of article:

Day and Date: Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

Source: Democrat and Chronicle

Israeli Forces Kill 10 Protesters in Gaza

Israeli forces fired a missile and four tank shells to hold back a large crowd of Palestinian demonstrators Wednesday, and shrapnel from the blasts killed at least 10 Palestinian children and teenagers and wounded 50 people, hospital officials said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers fired warning shots toward an abandoned structure - and not the crowd - to try to stop 3,000 demonstrators marching toward the Rafah refugee camp, scene of a deadly Israeli offensive.

But witnesses saw at least one large explosion go off among the protesters. White smoke rose into the air as Palestinians carried the wounded - including children with bloodied faces - from the scene.

It appeared likely that Israel would break off its offensive - dubbed "Operation Rainbow" - in the Rafah refugee camp because of Wednesday\'s strike. One government official said the idea was being considered. The offensive, in search of gunmen and weapons-smuggling tunnels, was to have lasted more than a week.

Even before Wednesday\'s strike, the offensive drew international condemnation. The Bush administration said it was "very concerned" about Wednesday\'s incident and asked Israel for an explanation.

"We continue to follow this closely. We urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the Gaza offensive as "unacceptable and wrong," while Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero criticized Israel\'s tactics and urged a new commitment to the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.