BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops seized a Gaza town on Thursday, and five Palestinians were killed, as Palestinians marked the 55th anniversary of the "naqba," or catastrophe, their term for their displacement during the 1948 creation of Israel.
With the latest incursion, aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza at Israeli towns, Israel signaled that it would not let up in its campaign against Palestinian militants, even with the United States and other mediators calling for steps toward calm and the first Israeli-Palestinian summit meeting since 2000 set for Saturday.
At about 3 a.m., Israel sent dozens of tanks into Beit Hanoun in northeast Gaza, as bulldozers flattened Palestinian farmland between the Palestinian town and the Gaza-Israel fence.
In clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, five Palestinians were killed, including a 12-year-old boy and two 15-year-olds.
An Israeli commander denied Palestinian charges that soldiers blocked ambulances from entering and said his troops fired only at gunmen.
Marwan Shabat, 55, a Beit Hanoun teacher, said the incursion was a continuation of the 1948 "naqba," adding, "but if the occupiers think they can uproot us from our town, they are mistaken."
The "naqba" observance on Thursday, including a three-minute siren call for silent tribute, underlined one of the most intractable problems in the conflict — the fate of 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in what became Israel during the war and other events surrounding the country's 1948 creation.
With their descendants, the refugees now number about 4 million, and Palestinian leaders demanded that Israel recognize the refugees' "right of return" to their original homes.
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