Thousands attend funerals in Gaza

Thousands attend funerals in Gaza

Funerals are taking place for people who were killed in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, most of them civilians.

Hamas says it will retaliate after Israeli military operations there killed 19 Palestinians in a single day.

Earlier, two Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid at the Qabatiya refugee camp, near Jenin, after Israeli troops surrounded a militants” hideout.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned by the escalation of fighting and urged both sides to show restraint.

Hundreds have been attending the funeral of Palestinian cameraman Fadel Shana, who was amongst those killed on Wednesday while covering the worst fighting in the Gaza Strip for more than a month.

Mourners carried his body while his broken camera was borne on a separate stretcher.

Mr Shana died when he was hit by a shell from an Israeli tank.

Hamas has promised further retaliation for Wednesday”s deaths, saying “all options are open” in terms of how they plan to strike.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said in a newspaper interview the Islamist movement bears “direct responsibility” for the fighting and that it will “pay the price”.

There had been talk of an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

Now both sides are vowing revenge, and Gaza is bracing itself for more violence, says the BBC”s Aleem Maqbool in Gaza City.

Bloody day

On the Jenin raid, the Israeli army said their operation was targeting members of Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian officials said of the two Palestinians killed, one was an Islamic Jihad militant and the other was a 16-year-old boy.

Wednesday”s violence was Gaza”s worst day of fighting since Israeli incursions in early March.

It began when a Hamas ambush in northern Gaza killed three Israeli troops, Israel”s highest daily loss in the area for three years.

A number of Hamas militants were killed following the attack.

Later, Israel launched air strikes near Bureij refugee camp, which it said targeted gunmen, but which left five children among 11 people killed.