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Israeli troops mass in West Bank

The Israeli army has begun sending infantry and armoured vehicles to the West Bank in what it says is a response to escalating Palestinian-Israeli violence. An army statement said the deployment of troops, who have not so far entered Palestinian-controlled areas, was a response to Tuesday's "flagrant violation" of the two sides' tattered ceasefire.

These reinforcements, tanks and military units are pushing the fragile situation to the edge of explosion Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, Arafat aide It comes after some of the worst violence in the region in recent months, including a suicide bombing and mortar attacks by Palestinians and Israeli helicopter strikes.

The BBC's Frank Gardner in Jerusalem says that the mobilisation may be just a threat or bluff, but that it could also be a prelude to an invasion of the West Bank - which would essentially be a declaration of war.

Whether there was intent to use the troops or not, he added, the mobilisation was "the most serious move in many days, if not weeks".

Senior Palestinians were quick to warn that Israel's actions were pushing the region towards disaster.

"These reinforcements, tanks and military units are pushing the fragile situation to the edge of explosion," Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, an aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said.

Israeli leaders are reported to be meeting overnight to discuss the situation. An army spokeswoman refused to say if the troops would be sent into Palestinian-controlled areas.

Funerals for the two soliders killed in Monday's suicide bombing The mobilisation comes after at least four Palestinians were killed and several others injured in an Israeli helicopter strike.

Israeli military sources said that the targets had been planning a bomb attack on the Maccabiah Games, an international Jewish sporting event which opened on Monday evening in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the attack as an "act of war perpetrated by the Israeli Government against the unarmed and innocent Palestinian population".

Mortar bomb

Just a few hours later, a mortar bomb was fired at the Jewish settlement of Gilo in what the Israeli army says is the first attack from the West Bank since the latest Palestinian uprising began in September 2000.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

Palestinian sources said the helicopters struck a house in the town of Bethlehem belonging to the Fatah movement of Mr Arafat.

A coalition of Palestinian groups known as the National and Islamic Forces was quoted as saying they would avenge it, and that every settler and soldier was now a target.

Two of the men killed in the strike, named as Omar Saadeh and Taha Aruj, are believed to be activists of the Islamic militant group Hamas. The other two were Mohammed and Eshak Saadeh, relatives of Omar Saadeh.

The strike followed an overnight attack by Israeli tanks on Palestinian checkpoints in the town of Jenin and Tulkarem in retaliation for a suicide bomb attack in northern Israel.

The bomber blew himself up near a train station in the town of Binyamina on Monday evening, killing two Israelis, a male and a female soldier, and injuring at least eight others.

-- Martin Thompson (, July 17, 2001


07/17 21:21 Israel Sends Reinforcements to West Bank as Violence Escalates By Nick Wells

Jerusalem, July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Israel sent troops and armored vehicles to the West Bank after a day of escalating violence, Israeli media reported.

In the latest incident, Palestinians fired two mortar shells at Gilo on the edge of Jerusalem, the first time mortar bombs have been fired in the West Bank, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz said.

``The Israeli army is mobilizing infantry and armored vehicles to the Judea and Samaria area in light of today's flagrant violation of the cease-fire,'' Israeli military officials told Reuters. The troops didn't enter Palestinian- controlled areas, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The U.S. is trying to persuade Israeli and Palestinian leaders to enforce a cease-fire as a step toward ending 10 months of violence since a Palestinian uprising began. Israel says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat isn't reining in those responsible for attacks on Israelis such as Monday's suicide bombing in the northern town of Binyamina that killed two soldiers.

The radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attack. Islamic Jihad and another group, Hamas, have said they will carry out bomb attacks to disrupt the peace efforts and retaliate for Palestinian deaths in clashes with Israeli forces.

Yesterday, Israeli helicopters fired on the Bethlehem home of a Hamas leader, killing him and three other people.

Omar Saadeh, described as the chief of the military wing of Hamas in Bethlehem, and Taha Aruj, called a top Hamas activist, were among those killed, the Associated Press said, citing unnamed Palestinian security officials.

Tough Fight

Hamas was planning an attack during the July 23 closing ceremonies of the Maccabiah Games, an international sports competition that began Monday, unnamed Israeli military officials told AP. The Olympic-style competition, held every four years, draws hundreds of Jewish athletes from around the world.

``We are engaged in a tough fight in which we will not hesitate to deal severe blows to terrorists preparing attacks,'' Agence France- Presse cited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as saying at a meeting of his Likud party.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are designated as terrorist organizations under U.S. law, which bars U.S. citizens from funding or otherwise supporting the groups. Hamas receives money from Palestinian expatriates, Iran, and patrons in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, according to the State Department. Islamic Jihad receives funding from Iran and ``limited logistic assistance'' from Syria, the U.S. says 20News&s1=blk&tp=ad_topright_topworld& =ad_right1_windex&bt=ad_position1_windex&middle=ad_frame2_windex&s=AO1 TkqBbBSXNyYWVs

-- Martin Thompson (, July 17, 2001.

Israel's loud and clear "war warning" is undoubtedly inducing all of Isreal's potential enemies to prepare for possible imminent war. This mobilization process further raises tensions, and thus tends to feed on itself. The resulting momentum is a "death spiral" that can reach the "Point Of No Return" in just hours.

-- Robert Riggs (, July 18, 2001.

It's certainly a grave situation, and I struggle to see how it can end happily. It could conceivably start WW3, although it's doubtful. WW2+1/2 on the other hand, is looking like a strong possibility. It might depend on the extent to which USA involves itself after the fighting gets on in ernest.

Palestinians will continue to resist & terrorise - they're truly oppressed so they see little choice. Israel will continue to escalate their retaliations and their day to day bastardry. But whether or not they cross some line that gets Syria or Iran or Iraq or Egypt sufficiently pissed off to throw the first punch on behalf of the Pal's?...remains to be seen. But I suspect they will. And as Robert mentions here, they're all mobilised for a fight, so it perhaps takes less for one to get going. Maybe Israel will hit back once too often on their northern border, and the Syrians will bring it on. Or maybe a Palestinian or sympathizer will land a very large terrorist attack and it will spiral from there.

It appears that if it becomes openly declared war, then Israel will be up against Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, which would be an evenly matched encounter, more or less. But it could turn into a modern war that is over in an afternoon, because of the thermonuclear firepower in the neighborhood. USA may feel compelled to join in if Israel looks like going under, and Russia's reaction to this might be an overreaction, thereby killing the world.

I don't think it's quite THAT drastic, but it could go from todays defcon to WW3 in less than a day, unfortunately.

-- number six (!@!.com), July 18, 2001.

Even if by some miracle the war remains conventional and regional, one certain result is major disruption of petroleum flows out of the Persian Gulf, either through deliberate embargoes or simple caution by tanker companies (and their insurance carriers). Any attempt by the U.S. to help Israel will bring another 1973-style oil embargo in an instant. Complicating the issue even more, as I understand it, there is a brigade of US soldiers stationed on the Golan Heights (IIRC) as a "trip wire" force. If American troops get drawn into the actual fighting, this could get very messy very quickly.

-- Cash (, July 18, 2001.

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