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Annan condemns Gaza attacks as death toll rises

Palestinians say 60 killed as Israel moves to set up buffer

A machine gun points out from an Israeli guard tower above Gaza.
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Israeli operations against militants in Gaza.
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- In a statement issued Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza, which have killed dozens of Palestinians in recent days.

Palestinian sources say about 60 people have been killed since the Israeli operation began Wednesday -- the most recent being two Palestinians killed by Israeli shells early Monday.

Also early Monday, an Israeli airstrike targeting a Hamas military commander wounded him and one other Palestinian east of Gaza City, Palestinian medical sources said. The commander was on the street when he was hit.

Annan urged the Israeli government "to halt its military incursions into the Gaza Strip, which have led to the deaths of scores of Palestinians, among them many civilians, including children.

"The secretary-general likewise calls on the Palestinian Authority to take action to halt the firing of rockets against Israeli targets by Palestinian militants. He reminds both sides to this conflict that they have a legal obligation to protect all civilians."

Sunday, Israeli forces were in the fifth day of a large-scale, open-ended operation called "Days of Penitence," which Israel says is intended to stop rocket attacks from Palestinian territories into Israeli settlements.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the Israeli operations are necessary to protect Israelis from Palestinian attacks.

"The operation will take place as long as there are Qassams, rockets and mortars coming out of the Gaza Strip," said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

The operation was launched after a Palestinian Qassam rocket landed on a street in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday, killing a 2-year-old Israeli girl and her 4-year-old brother.

Israeli forces are in Gaza to create a 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) buffer zone to protect Israel from the rocket attacks. The range of the crude, homemade Qassam rockets is roughly the width of the buffer zone.

Israeli forces have surrounded the Jabaliya refugee camp, which is home to about 100,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza, as well as Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Since the operation was launched, more than 60 Palestinians -- including civilians and militants -- have been killed, Palestinian sources said.

Two Palestinians were killed early Monday by Israeli shelling on Jabaliya, Palestinian security sources said. Israel Defense Forces said troops targeted four militants trying to activate an explosive device against Israeli forces.

Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinians on Sunday at Jabaliya, including a 13-year-old boy, and killed another Palestinian in a missile strike in Beit Hanoun, also in northern Gaza, Palestinian sources said.

The al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department -- said the 13-year-old was working for them.

In a statement, the militant Popular Resistance Committee said a man killed in later fighting in Jabaliya and the man killed in Beit Hanoun were field commanders of the group.

A 12-year-old boy who was shot Saturday died Sunday, the sources said. The Israel Defense Forces had no comment on the deaths of the children.

Palestinian medical sources said three of the Palestinians killed in Jabaliya were members of Islamic Jihad.

One of the others was a 36-year-old deaf-mute man shot while standing on his balcony, they said.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the operation violated international law. The group decided Sunday to ask the U.N. Security Council to intervene.

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