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Militant rocket fire kills boy

Palestinians fire at Israeli protesters, but a rocket hits a Palestinian home, killing 3-year-old boy inside.

Associated Press
Published August 3, 2005


SDEROT, Israel - Palestinians fired rockets Tuesday at Israeli settlers gathered for a massive protest against the upcoming Gaza withdrawal, but missed, killing a 3-year-old Palestinian boy and wounding nine other Palestinians in Gaza.

Witnesses said militants fired three rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, where thousands of Israelis had gathered for a peaceful demonstration. Two of the rockets fell in Palestinian areas, and the third fell in an open field near Sderot.

Among the wounded were five children, aged 4 to 11, including four children of Hisham Abdel Razek, a senior official in the ruling Fatah party and a former Palestinian Cabinet minister. Abdel Razek's wife also was wounded.

The dead boy was identified as Yasser Adnan Ashkar, who was killed when one of the stray rockets hit his family's home in Beit Hanoun, northeast of Gaza City. His 11-year-old brother, Ali, was in critical condition. Abdel Razek's family was visiting at the time, witnesses said. The house was severely damaged.

Minutes before the rockets were fired, Palestinian militants shot an antitank rocket at an Israeli convoy traveling to the isolated Israeli settlement of Netzarim, settlers and the army said. There were no reports of injuries.

A few minutes after the rockets were fired, an explosion was heard outside the Gaza City house of a former Palestinian Cabinet minister, witnesses said. No one was hurt, police said. On Monday, a blast damaged a wall outside the home of the Palestinian Authority's attorney general in Gaza City.

Both officials have been picked by the parliament to investigate widespread corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

Militant attacks against Israelis had dropped after a February truce between Israel and the Palestinians. In recent weeks, however, as the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza approaches, militants have stepped up attacks to try to portray the Israeli pullout as a military victory for the Palestinians.

The rockets were fired toward Sderot as the rally there was ending.

Although the Israelis gathered in Sderot had pledged a peaceful protest, settler leaders said they planned to defy a military order and lead their followers on a march to Gaza's settlements Wednesday.

More than 15,000 police and soldiers took up positions in southern Israel to prevent the marchers from reaching Gaza, which has been declared a closed military zone.

The protest march would be the settlers' second effort in two weeks to breach the barricades preventing them from getting into the Gush Katif settlement bloc in southern Gaza. If they fall short again, it would be a devastating blow to the protest movement.

"Our goal has been stated openly: to go Gush Katif, to our besieged brothers," Gaza settler leader Avner Shimoni told Channel 2 TV. "It is impossible to stop the masses of Israel who have only one goal, to reach Gush Katif and overturn this cruel decree."

After days of negotiating with the authorities, settler leaders were given permission to hold Tuesday's rally in Sderot, an Israeli town that borders northern Gaza.

[Last modified August 3, 2005, 00:37:06]


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