Israeli Army Moves Into More West Bank Towns
Israeli tanks and a bulldozer rolled into the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Monday as helicopters circled overhead. Witnesses reported that five machine gun-mounted tanks entered the center of the city, where there was no initial resistance.
Troops also briefly entered Bethlehem Monday just before sunrise. Witnesses said tanks stopped about 500 yards from the Church of the Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus before pulling back to its outskirts.
Four of the six Palestinian suicide bombers who struck in the last six days lived in the northern West Bank, including a female bomber who killed herself in Jerusalem Friday.
The incursions are part of a campaign Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon has called an “uncompromising war to uproot these savages” and crush what he called a terror campaign directed by Arafat.
President Bush again called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat today to denounce the suicide attacks.
“There will never be peace so long as there is terror, and all of us must fight terror. I’d like to see Chairman Arafat denounce the terrorist activities that are taking place, the constant attacks,” Bush said
This evening, in the sixth suicide bombing in six days, a car exploded at a police checkpoint in west Jerusalem, injuring an Israeli policeman and killing the bomber inside the car. The area was not crowded, but there may have been several more injured in the blast that blew the roof of the car.
In the northern town of Qalqilya, Israeli soldiers conducted door-to-door searches looking for militants and more weapons caches, like those reportedly found in other towns. Israeli forces also occupied and searched the Palestinian-ruled towns of al-Bireh and Beit Jala.
Doctors in Beit Jala say seven foreigners protesting Israel’s military occupation were hurt when an Israeli soldier fired a machine gun at the ground. A Palestinian cameraman was also injured. The protesters reportedly marched up to Israeli tanks, ignoring commands to move away. None of the injuries were seriously.
The Israeli army said it was checking the report.
The Israeli military has called up more than 20,000 reservists and the government has said the action could take weeks to a month.
In Ramallah, where Israeli forces have been in control of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s compound since Friday, bulldozers created a dirt embankment around the building.
Observers report heavy exchanges of gunfire spread out across the city. The bodies of two Palestinian policemen were found in a Ramallah park, and eight Israeli soldiers were wounded in gunbattles.
At least 22 Palestinians and two Israelis have been killed in Ramallah since Friday.
As Israeli troops moved into the Palestinian towns, militants killed men accused of collaborating with Israel. In Tulkarem, Palestinian militants dragged seven Palestinians out of a temporary jail, shot them and left their bodies in the street.
The bodies of two suspected informers were also found in Qalqilya. And in Bethlehem, the body of a Palestinian accused of e-mailing information to the Israelis was dumped near the Church of the Nativity.