Friday 24 January 2003

Israeli helicopters fire missiles into Anglican hospital in Gaza

Israeli attack helicopters fired 11 missiles at Gaza City early Friday, hitting a chapel in a hospital and several workshops as tanks rolled into the city, after a Palestinian ambush on the West Bank of the Jordan River left three Israeli soldiers dead.

Witnesses said a missile scored a direct hit on an Anglican chapel in the Ahli Hospital compound in the centre of Gaza City, damaging the roof. Palestinians said the other missiles were aimed at workshops and six people were wounded.

The Israeli military would say only an operation was in progress. In the past, Israeli forces have targeted workshops in Gaza, charging Palestinians use them to make weapons, including mortars and rockets. Late Thursday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in a village inside Israel, causing no damage or casualties.

The violence came just five days before Israel's elections, where Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is running for re-election with a policy of harsh military reprisals against Palestinians following violent incidents, is favoured over his opponent, Amram Mitzna, who favours negotiations with the Palestinians and withdrawal from most of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip.

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