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Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre   for Tuesday July 18th, 2006

After 23 days of closure, Rafah border crossing partially reopens. 23 Lebanese people have been killed, 9 of which are members of one family, the death toll in Lebanon has exceeded 220, and in the West Bank, the army continues to arrests residents.

Those stories and more coming up, stay tuned.

After 23 days of closure, Rafah border crossing partially reopens

The Rafah-Egypt border crossing was partially reopened on Tuesday morning to allow Palestinians, who had been trapped for the past 23 days on the Egyptian side of the crossing, to enter the Gaza Strip.

The crossing was opened after European monitors returned to their posts.  Their presence is required for the crossing to be open, due to the agreement reached in 2005.  The European monitors had left their positions after being asked to leave by their own embassies, citing safety concerns, it is reported.

Saleem Abu Safiyah, the Director of Security at the Crossings, said that the Rafah crossing was opened on Tuesday morning and will remain open until 5:00 P.M today, Tuesday 18th July.

Following the attack of Palestinian resistance fighters on an army post, resulting in the capture of one Israeli soldier, and the death of three others, the Israeli forces closed the crossing on 25 June 2006, as the army started its ‘Summer Rain’ offensive in the Gaza Strip.   During the closure, more than three thousand Palestinians got trapped between the Gaza-Egypt borders, which led to the deaths of at least 8 Palestinians, among them children. This crossing is the only border crossing that allows Palestinians from Gaza to connect to the outside world.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have officially pulled out of Beit Hanoun, after two days of occupying the northern Gaza Strip town. Over the course of the two days, the Israeli military caused extensive material damage. In addition, forces killed eight of the town’s residents and injured some 52 others, several of which are in critical condition.

Also on Tuesday, Abd Al Rahman Sahbon, 44, was injured when heavy artillery from the Israeli army shelled residential areas in Al Zahr’a town in the southern Gaza strip during the afternoon.  Medical sources in the town reported that Sahbon was moved to Al Shifa hospital for treatment. The sources also reported treating several shock injuries among the residents.

On Tuesday morning, Palestinian resistance fighters shot one home made Qassam shell into the housing compound of Israeli intelligence officers in Ovikim, the Negev town east of the Gaza Strip.  The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, have taken responsibility for the attack.

23 Lebanese killed, 9 of which, members of one family, as the death toll in Lebanon today exceeded 220

The Israeli army struck several targets across Lebanon on Tuesday killing at least 23 Lebanese, including nine members of one family, raising the death toll to more than 220 Lebanese, the vast majority of them civilians.

The Qatar based Al Jazeera TV reported that the Israeli army shelled several areas north and east of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, killing nine civilians, all of which from one family, including children.

The nine family members were killed, and four more were injured, when an Israeli air strike destroyed a house in Aitarun village, south of Lebanon. Four other Lebanese died in separate attacks elsewhere in the south.

At least 23 people have been killed in these latest air strikes by Israeli warplanes in Lebanon, raising the toll there to more than 220.  In a separate attack, the Israeli army struck a Lebanese army barracks in the Jumhur area, east of Beirut, killing10 Lebanese soldiers and wounding 30.

The Qatar based Al Jazeera Television reported that Israeli troops shelled targets around Zahle town, a mainly Christian town in central Lebanon, and fired shells at ambulances on nearby roads. Tuesday’s attack also targeted suburbs, south of Beirut, the city of Tripoli in the north, and two army posts in Junhur and Kafer Shima areas.

The Lebanese police reported on Tuesday that the Israeli raids targeted the Christian coastal town of Byblos north of Beirut, damaging two trucks without inflicting casualties, police said. Despite calls from the international community for a truce, and worldwide protests against Israeli aggression, Major Moshe Kaplinsky, Israel’s deputy armed forces chief of staff, stated that the offense could last for a few weeks, and that a ground invasion could be possible.

Israeli sources reported that eleven Israelis were injured in the northern Israeli town of Safad and two more Israelis were injured after Hezbollah fired missiles at what is being described as “a sensitive facility” in Israel.  Ten Israelis suffered shock and were transferred to a medical center.  Israel has disregarded Lebanon’s call for a ceasefire.  Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, stated that the bombardment will not end until Hezbollah gives up the two captured soldiers, and must stop any rocket attacks on Israel.

Four residents arrested from Hebron

The Israeli army took four residents as prisoners in a pre-dawn invasion of the West Bank city of Hebron, and the nearby villages of Bani No’em and Beity Omer, this morning, Tuesday 18 July.

Troops searched several houses in several neighborhoods in the city and the two villages before taking the four to unknown locations, local sources reported.

The four were identified as; Khalil Al Manasra, 35, Mohamed Al Manasra, 28, Rabi’e Al Shoawiki, 30, and Mohamed Abu Marba.

Army invades Jayues village and takes one prisoner

The Israeli ‘Defence’ Force invaded the village of Jayues near the West Bank city of Qalqilia and took Bajess Bida as a prisoner, this morning at dawn.

Troops and jeeps stormed the village from several directions, searched a number of houses including Bajess’s before taking him to unknown location, eyewitnesses reported.

Local residents also said that the army is still blocking the entrance of the village and the eastern entrance of the city; not allowing anyone in or out for the third consecutive day.

Army arrests one resident near Wadi Al Far’a, north of Tubass

The Israeli army arrested one resident while he was driving his motorcycle at the main road near Wadi Al Far’a, north of the West Bank city of Tubass, Tuesday morning.

Troops detained the man for some time before taking him to an unknown location. The man’s identity has not yet been issued.

Thanks for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem.  You have been listening to Palestine Today for the International Middle East Media Centre, brought to you by  Ghassan H Bannoura and James Brownsell