From Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip – 1st Nov 2006

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli army declared Beit Hanoun a closed military zone. All residents were ordered to stay indoors. The Israeli army issued a warning through two local radio stations ('Freedom Radio' and 'Youth Radio') after they occupied the airwaves for a few minutes.

The town of Beit Hanoun, which lies only a few kilometres from the Israeli settlement of Sderot on the other side of the Gaza-Israel border, has 28,000 inhabitants.

The Israeli army conducted a large-scale offensive in Beit Hanoun at dawn on Thursday. It combined air and ground forces, including infantry, armored corps and engineer corps forces.

According to Palestinian sources, this incursion is the tenth into the town of Beit Hanoun since the Israeli army 'left' the Gaza Strip last August 2005. The death toll resulting from this offensive is 8 killed and more than 100 people wounded. It continues to rise.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the operation "a massacre" and an "abominable crime". Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared: "This is the fruit of ['Israel, Our Home' Chairman] Avigdor Lieberman's addition to the government".

Nedal Wahdan, a resident of Beit Hanoun, 47, said, "The Israeli army says that this operation will be rapid without re-occupation of the Strip! Are they fooling us? They still occupy us even after they left the Gaza Strip by turning the Strip into a big prison. I cannot go to my farms, fearing that a shell might him me or at least its shrapnel". He added that Beit Hanoun used to be a paradise full of trees and planted fields: "We used to have a barbecue between the trees enjoying the singing of the birds but now it has become a desert because the Israeli bulldozers destroyed everything",

Basmah Al-Kafarnah, 36, mother of 6 children, said, "My children get scared and terrified whenever they hear tanks shelling. I don’t have an alternative house to move to. It is very dangerous when shrapnel falls on the roof and hits the windows. The shells don’t differentiate between militants and civilians, they are conducting random killings; they even killed animals in our field yard".

Naem Al-Masri, 31, a farmer, said, "God knows how many people they are going to kill this time. On the day of Eid El-Fitr a few weeks ago, they killed 7 people. We have lost many loved ones. I wonder why the Israelis have the desire to commit ethnic cleansing. We demand the international community to intervene and stop this genocide. Do we not as Palestinians have the right to live like the Israelis? The only solution to this crisis is to end the Israeli occupation to our lands, we need to breathe! FREEDOM!"

Palestinians are leaving the territories due to the harsh security and economic situation there, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Suboh, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official, said at a Ramallah press conference that over the last four months, foreign and Arab diplomats have authorized 10,000 Palestinians to enter their countries.

Ahmed Abu Harabid, 15, a school student, said, "I was wounded last week by shrapnel to my leg and abdomen. It hurts so much. I want to tell the Israeli children to feel how we feel. We don’t enjoy our lives like they do. I want to be a doctor one day to help treat people, especially innocent babies and children. My uncle is imprisoned in an Israeli jail and my cousins lost their father 2 years ago".

While I was listening to Ahmed speak, a group of young children came and asked him to go with them to play soccer in the street but his father shouted, "Son, go inside the house. I don’t want to lose you." The father said to me in a sad tone, "When he was wounded the last time, we thought he was going to die, thank god he is still alive. We are always worried. The drones are hovering in the skies so it is dangerous, I should go to my house."

Yousef Alhelou is a freelance Palestinian journalist. He can be contacted on