IDF tanks enter heart of Jenin; Heavy fighting reported : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

IDF tanks enter heart of Jenin; Heavy fighting reported By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz Correspondent and Agencies Israeli tanks entered into the heart of the Palestinian-ruled West Bank town of Jenin early on Tuesday and took over a building belonging to the town's governor, Palestinian witnesses and security officials said.

They said heavy fighting accompanied the incursion into the centre of Jenin, a town handed over to Palestinian rule in 1995 under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

Witnesses said they saw the bodies of two people lying in a street after being hit by Israeli gunfire during heavy fighting with Palestinian gunmen and armed activists who rushed to confront the IDF forces,but no deaths were immediately confirmed.

Palestinian security officials said armoured bulldozers had destroyed two adjoining Palestinian police stations and soldiers had entered the Palestinian security headquarters in Jenin.

The buzz of helicopters overhead and the bright lights of flares exploding in the night sky frayed on the nerves of locals who feared an Israeli military retaliation for two suicide bombings carried out by residents of the Jenin area.

In the streets of Jenin, Palestinians armed with loudspeakers called on residents with guns to prepare to confront Israeli soldiers if they invaded the town.

"This is a declaration of war," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters.

He said the Palestinian Authority demanded an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Senior Palestinian Authority negotiatior Saeb Erekat told CNN early Tuesday that "armored tanks entered the city, shooting and bombing, there is heavy resistence by the Palestinian people."

Adding "What he [Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] began in Jerusalem two days ago, is part of an end game, this man [Sharon] is determined to end his life by ending the peace process."

Palestinians reported earlier that around 40 tanks and armored vehicles, 400 soldiers, ambulances and food and water supplies had been moved to new positions near the village of Jalame north of Jenin. The sources also reported IDF warplanes flying over the area.

Israeli security sources refused to give any details.

Army Radio reported that the Palestinian Authority was preparing for an IDF retaliatory attack after a suicide bombing in Kiryat Motzkin on Sunday wounded 21 people.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 13, 2001


Nando Times

JERUSALEM (August 13, 2001 10:25 p.m. EDT) - Israeli tanks rolled into the West Bank city of Jenin and opened fire early Tuesday, attempting to destroy the main police station, Palestinian officials said.

The incursion - following two Palestinian suicide bombings in less than a week - was the first time Israeli forces have entered the center of a Palestinian controlled city in 10 months of hostilities. Israel has said the suicide bombers were dispatched from Jenin.

About 10 tanks rumbled through the city from an Israeli base just outside of Jenin. They stopped in front of several key Palestinian buildings near the main square, said Haider Irshad, the vice governor of Jenin.

The tanks concentrated their fire on the police headquarters, about 200 yards from the square, and bulldozers were also called in to help with the destruction of the building, said Irshad, whose office represents Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Tanks moved in front of the governor's office and general headquarters for the security services, but did not appear to be firing, he said.

Palestinian gunmen fired at the Israeli tanks, witnesses said. No Israeli ground troops were seen in the city, Irshad said.

Israeli helicopters flew above the city during the operation, but did not appear to fire, witnesses added.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment, and there was no word on casualties.

Israeli army radio quoted military sources as saying the goal of the mission is to destroy Palestinian Authority buildings and then withdraw. There was no word on how long the operation would last.

Irshad said he believed the Israeli forces were unlikely to stay in Jenin, and he expected them to withdraw after demolishing the police building.

Israeli forces have briefly entered Palestinian-controlled territory on multiple occasions during the more than 10 months of Mideast fighting.

In most cases, it involved forays into relatively open areas in the Gaza Strip. Tuesday's incursion was the first time the Israeli forces entered a developed area in a Palestinian-controlled city.

Earlier, Palestinians on Monday observed a general strike and demonstrators scuffled with Israeli police at Orient House, a Palestinian political office in east Jerusalem that Israel seized last week.

Dozens of Palestinian and foreign demonstrators wrestled with club-wielding Israeli police and tried to raise Palestinian flags. Ten protesters were arrested.

At the protest, Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said resistance to Israeli rule is now focused on Jerusalem.

"There will be mass protests, demonstrations and all types of activity until Israel gets the message," she told The Associated Press.

The United States has criticized the Israeli takeover as "political escalation." Arab nations have expressed fury with the move, which the Israelis say is designed to reassert their authority in all of Jerusalem.

Israel seized Orient House after a member of the militant Hamas group on Thursday blew himself up in a Jerusalem restaurant, killing himself and 15 others. In another suicide attack, 20 people were injured Sunday in a restaurant in a suburb of the northern Israeli port city of Haifa. The assailant, from the militant group Islamic Jihad, was killed.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and other territories. Israel annexed east Jerusalem days after the war, unlike the other areas. Though the annexation has not been recognized by any other country, Israel insists that the whole city is its capital.

The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to create.

As part of the protest, Palestinians in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip observed a general strike Monday. Except for demonstrations, streets were deserted as merchants shuttered their shops and government employees stayed home.

"Jerusalem is ours," shouted about 2,000 Palestinians marching in the West Bank city of Nablus. About 3,000 Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza City, burning a coffin labeled "Sharon," a reference to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon, meanwhile, permitted Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to resume contacts with senior Palestinian officials, despite two suicide bombings by Islamic militants over four days.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Peres denied media reports that Sharon had told him not to speak to Arafat himself.

"I have the right to meet every person I think I have to, including Chairman Arafat," Peres said.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio he held out little hope.

"I doubt whether it will be possible to arrive at an agreement with Arafat. I think he is leading his people to a catastrophe," Ben-Eliezer said.

Also Monday, Israeli police shot and killed Khalil Nazaanah, a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Kufr Akab, suspected of killing an Israeli teenager last month.

Police said that Nazaanah was wounded during a chase and died later in the hospital.

He was suspected of killing 18-year-old Yuri Gushtzin, whose body was found with stabbing and gunshot wounds near the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 24.

-- Rachel Gibson (, August 14, 2001.

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