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Thousands Gather for Funerals of Palestinians Killed in Israeli Attack - 2003-10-21


Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered Tuesday in Gaza for the funerals of seven people killed in an Israeli missile strike. Many mourners called for revenge as Israel vowed to continue targeting members of Islamic groups that carry out terror attacks.

The Nusseirat Palestinian refugee camp overflowed with crowds following the funeral procession of seven Palestinians who died in a series of Israeli air attacks the day before.

The flag-draped bodies of the seven, aged 11 to 49, were carried in stretchers as Palestinian leaders and mourners vented their rage against Israel.

Shortly before the funerals, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia called for international intervention to help stop Israel from carrying out more air strikes in Gaza.

He says the killing of Palestinians in Israeli military raids is undermining efforts by his government to reach a cease-fire.

"It is not acceptable," said Mr. Qureia. "It will not help us as a government who wants to reach a ceasefire because I think this is the only way to create an atmosphere for negotiations."

Mr. Qureia's reaction came in response to five Israeli air strikes that killed at least 10 people Monday in Gaza, including members of the militant Islamic group Hamas, but also innocent bystanders.

Israel has defended the raids.

Dore Gold, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, says that the air strikes were launched after a group of Palestinian militants attempted to cross the border from Gaza into Israel to carry out an attack.

"Israel was dealing with a Palestinian vehicle, which Israel knew with 100 percent certainty, was seeking to infiltrate Israel proper and conduct a massive terror attack," he said. "Israel is left with no choice but to thwart such attacks in order to protect its civilians and keep its population safe."

Israel says that two of the militants were killed by Israeli soldiers at the border and others fled in a car to the nearby Nusseirat refugee camp.

The Israeli military kept track of the car as it sped away, followed it to the camp and then attacked it with missiles fired from a helicopter.

An Israeli Army spokeswoman said the incident is under investigation, and it has not been determined exactly how many civilians had been killed by the Israeli military.

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