Israeli Troops Withdraw From Arafat Compound
The Israeli military told the Associated Press that during the siege, soldiers arrested at least 50 Palestinians, uncovered a bomb laboratory and found two armed car bombs.
“The action was done quietly, and I think the results are quite impressive,” Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told Israel’s Channel Two television before the pullout began.
Witnesses told reporters that troops and armored vehicles also withdrew from positions elsewhere in Ramallah. Israeli’s Army radio said the withdrawal was expected to be completed overnight.
The raid came five days after a suicide bomber attacked a bus in northern Israel, killing 17 Israelis and wounding 38 others. The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that attack.
During a similar incursion last week, Israeli tanks and bulldozers broke through the outside wall of Arafat’s compound, destroyed three buildings and shelled an area that included the Palestinian leader’s sleeping quarters.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has blamed Arafat for the continuing conflict and said Palestinian violence is preventing peace talks. Sharon returned to Israel Tuesday after traveling to Washington and London for meetings with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Meanwhile, violence continued in Israel and the disputed territories.
On Tuesday, a suicide attack on a sandwich shop Tuesday killed a 15-year-old girl and wounded eight others in the coastal town of Herzliya. Thus far no group has claimed responsibility.
Also Tuesday, Israeli troops guarding the Jewish settlement of Netzarim shot and killed an 8-year-old Palestinian boy outside his family’s tent. Israeli troops said they were responding to heavy gunfire in the area.
At least 1,394 Palestinians and 509 Israelis have been killed since the most recent outbreak of violence began in September 2000.