GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli troops and armored vehicles crossed into the central Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing 10 Palestinian militants, including nine from the Islamist Hamas group, and a civilian.
Israeli forces exchanged fire with gunmen in al-Maghazi refugee camp, and some militants said they fired rocket-propelled grenades at the troops.
Medics said 10 Palestinian militants and a civilian were killed and 20 people, including children, wounded. A Hamas cameraman who was injured by what witnesses said was a tank shell was seen later shot in the legs as he lay on the ground.
Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, prime minister of a unity government that President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah dismissed after Hamas routed his forces in Gaza last month, condemned what he called Israel’s “military escalation” and “criminal massacre”.
Haniyeh said Palestinian gunmen had the right to respond.
Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 but has pressed ahead with periodic raids aimed at halting rocket fire at the Jewish state, since Hamas’s rout of Western-backed Abbas’s Fatah group last month.
The army spokeswoman said soldiers had carried out a routine raid about a kilometer (half-mile) inside Gaza to search for militants, including those involved in rocket attacks against Israel, and to find tunnels used to smuggle weapons.
She said troops had fired at gunmen who had edged towards Israeli forces, ignoring calls for them to stop and warning shots. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded by rocket propelled-grenade fire during the raid, she said.
Nine of the militants killed were from Hamas, that now controls Gaza. Another was an unarmed man from Islamic Jihad, the group said. An eleventh person killed was a civilian, medics said.
Two of the militants were killed when Israel launched an air strike at gunmen approaching the troops.
CAMERAMAN‘S LEGS AMPUTATED
Hospital officials said both legs of a Hamas television cameraman, Imad Ghanem, were amputated after he was shot. Witnesses said he was shot while standing with a group that included gunmen, though he appeared to be unarmed.
Television footage showed gunfire aimed in his direction as Ghanem was lying on the ground.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said journalists were at risk if they entered a combat zone but soldiers did not deliberately target them. A military source added that Israel did not consider a cameraman working for Hamas to be a journalist.
“They are part of Hamas’s operational forces. They are used to collect intelligence. They document attacks against our forces and are frequently joined with squads of armed men, and are sometimes armed themselves,” the Israeli source said.
In a separate incident around the same incursion, Israeli soldiers fired on a rooftop where several journalists, including a Reuters camera crew, were filming. No one was injured.
During the operation, Palestinian ambulance worker Azmi Abu Dalal said Israeli forces seized him and several colleagues when they tried to evacuate a wounded Palestinian man from a security post Hamas gunmen had been using.
Abu Dalal said soldiers used them as human shields to exit the area. Israeli law bans the army from using human shields.
An Israeli military spokesman said: “After conducting a preliminary examination, we know nothing about such an incident”.