Israel’s deadliest shelling in northern Gaza in four years has drawn condemnation across Europe and the Middle East. As Palestinian militants urged resistance, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said he had voiced sorrow. Israeli ground forces pulled out of Beit Hanoun on Tuesday. Following the deaths of eighteen civilians there, the Israeli Defence Minister ordered an investigation and a halt to shelling in Gaza until the inquiry was completed.
Speaking at a news conference in the Syrian capital Damascus, Khaled Meshaal, leader of the Palestinians’ governing Hamas group, called for retaliation against Israel. Meshaal said: “Our condemnation will not be in words but in deeds.” President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh donated blood together and visited a hospital in northern Gaza treating some of Beit Hanoun’s 54 wounded.
An Israeli army statement said preventative artillery was fired at sites from which Qassam rockets were launched into southern Israel on Monday. Palestinian security and hospital officials said five gunmen and two civilians had also been killed in other locations.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference accused Israel of war crimes and asked the UN to take steps to protect Palestinians. Israel said it was offering emergency humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority and medical care for the wounded.