GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian man captured by Israeli troops in Gaza said after his release on Friday that he had seen the corpses of many Islamist fighters bulldozed into piles covered with sand."They used a bulldozer to pile up the bodies of the dead. There were bodies of many fighters," said the man, who was released by the Israelis after five days of detention and allowed to return to Gaza.An Israeli army spokesman said he had no knowledge of such an incident.
The Palestinian gave his name as Eyad and said he saw the bodies in Beit Lahiya, a town in north Gaza that was an early objective in the ground offensive launched by Israel last Saturday after its aircraft had bombed Gaza targets for a week.Hamas has not revealed how many Gaza fighters have been killed or wounded. The Israeli army said three days ago it had killed more than 130 since ground combat started.Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians as they advanced into the Gaza Strip on an operation the government said was intended to crush Hamas and stop the firing of rockets into Israel.
Of about 200 held in Beit Lahiya, 75 were set free on Friday. They looked pale and exhausted and were barefoot. They crossed back into the Gaza Strip via Israel's fortified Erez crossing in the north.Eyad said they were first held as "human shields" inside military positions established by the army, then moved to a prison in Israel."In the first day (of the ground offensive) special forces stormed Beit Lahiya. Maybe a thousand soldiers landed on rooftops then began arresting people," he said."They also demolished houses they said were used to fire rockets from, or to hide tunnels."
Once in detention, Palestinians were interrogated to find out "who was firing rockets and who dug tunnels"."They used us as human shields in military positions they established inside Gaza Strip before they drove us to a prison in Beersheba," he said. "They made us sleep on gravel, or on the sand. They stripped us of our clothes."During his five days in detention, new captives were being brought in every day, the man said.Israel attacked Gaza on Dec 27 after the Hamas Islamic militants in control of the coastal strip ended a 6-month truce, saying the Israelis had violated a pledge to ease their blockade on Gaza, and started firing more rockets at southern towns.The rockets have killed four Israelis. The Israeli offensive has killed 783 Palestinians. But Israel says it will continue the operation until Hamas stops attacking southern Israel.