- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

GAZA, March 17 (UPI) — At least 12 people, including a U.S. peace activist, were killed in 24 hours of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said Monday.

Seven people died in an Israeli raid of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Two children were among those killed and a man was buried in the rubble of his house, which was destroyed by the Israelis.

The operation was apparently part of an ongoing Israeli military operation to destroy homes of suspected Palestinian militants. Israeli forces, which also entered the village of Beit Lahya early Monday, were backed by dozens of tanks and helicopters.

Two Palestinians were killed in fighting in Beit Lahya.

An American peace activist was killed Sunday when she stood in front of an Israeli army bulldozer trying to prevent the machine from destroying a Palestinian owned house in the town of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old from Washington state who had been living in the Gaza Strip for several months, was critically wounded after she was hit in her hear and neck. She died at a hospital a short time later.

An Israeli Defense Forces spokesman told the Ha'aretz newspaper that Corrie's death was "a regrettable accident."

IDF spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal told the newspaper, "We were dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger."

The IDF said that Corrie ran in front of the bulldozer as it approached the building it was to destrroy.

Two Palestinians died in an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops in the neighboring towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

Palestinian Authority officials accused Israel of escalating military action against the Palestinians in preparation to reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip.

"The right-wing Israeli government is escalating violence and very well using the current situation and the absence of the world's public opinion as the whole world is busy with the expected war against Israel," said the Palestinian Authority in an official statement.

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