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Israeli bulldozer crushes paralysed man

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Israeli bulldozer crushes paralysed man in Gaza home
12 Jul 2004 11:24:10 GMT

(Updates with details)

By Cynthia Johnston

GAZA, July 12 (Reuters) - An Israeli bulldozer crushed a paralysed Palestinian man to death when it knocked down his Gaza Strip home on Monday, witnesses said, during a raid to demolish homes the army described as militant gunposts.

Seventy-year-old Ibrahim Mahmoud Khalafallah was inside his home and his family was not given enough time to take him out before it was wrecked, Palestinian medics and witnesses said.

The army said it had destroyed flimsy shacks and unfinished structures near the town of Khan Younis that it said were used to launch rocket and shooting attacks against soldiers and nearby Jewish settlements.

Witnesses reported heavy gunfire during the raid by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

"The bulldozer buried our neighbour and he died ... Everything happened in 10 minutes," said Ahmed Hammoud, a 28-year-old father of four whose house was also demolished.

"I was in the house with my family when the bulldozer came in. We fled ... We couldn't save anything, not a bed or the refrigerator. Nothing. We didn't know they were coming."

Khalafallah's cousin Suheila said his family told the bulldozer driver the man was inside but could not stop it. Palestinian security sources said 26 houses were destroyed.

Israeli military sources said troops made every effort to make sure the buildings were empty and warned people to leave, but did not search all buildings for fear they could be booby-trapped.

Reuters television footage showed residents combing through the ruins of cinderblock homes. They removed clothing, dusty blankets and toys. They also pulled out dead animals including ducks, rabbits and a dog.

Violence in the Gaza Strip has surged since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon set out a plan early this year to withdraw troops and settlers from the impoverished territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

More than 22,000 people have been made homeless by Israeli army operations in the Gaza Strip since a Palestinian uprising broke out in 2000, according to United Nations figures.

(Additional reporting by Shahdi al-Kashif)

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