Israel pushes on with offensive

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 09:18:12 +0100

 Israeli tank in Jenin
Israel says there should be no pressure from the US

Israeli troops have occupied three more areas in the West Bank and
withdrawn from several others, hours before US Secretary of State Colin
Powell arrives on a peace mission. 

Tanks and troops entered the town of Bir Zeit, the refugee camp of Ein
Beit Elma near Ramallah and Daharyeh village near Hebron, and are
reported to be carrying out house-to-house searches. 


I hope our great friend the United States understands that this is a war
of survival for us 

Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister 
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there should be "no pressure"
from Washington for Israel to end its 13-day military offensive against
Palestinian militants. 

But there was a new call from the United Nations Security Council for an
immediate ceasefire and for Israeli forces to withdraw fully from
Palestinian areas. 

The statement came after Israel and the Palestinians were urged to
cooperate with Mr Powell by top officials from the UN, the European
Union, the United States and Russia meeting in Madrid. 

However the BBC's Jonny Dymond says no-one in Israel is expressing much
optimism about Mr Powell's visit. 

Search for militants 

A pattern is emerging of occupations, searches and withdrawals. 

But Israeli troops still remain in the major West Bank cities of Jenin,
Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem - where about 100 armed Palestinians have
been besieged by Israeli forces for more than week. 

Overnight Israeli forces retreated from Yatta, Qabatiya and Samua - four
days after they swept into the autonomous areas as part of Operation
Defensive Shield. 

They say they have withdrawn from 24 villages altogether. 

But as the army pulled back, columns of tanks rolled into the central
West Bank town of Bir Zeit, Palestinian witnesses said. 

Troops reportedly took over the police station in the town and began
searching houses for militants. 

'Finishing the job' 

On a visit to the West Bank town of Jenin, the scene of some of the
fiercest fighting, the Israeli prime minister rebuffed calls for Israel
to halt its offensive. 

"We will continue to operate against the terror and its infrastructure,"
he said. 

Mr Sharon said Israel was engaged in a war for its survival and the army
had to "finish the job". 

 Bus torn apart by suicide bomber near Haifa on Wednesday
Isreal began its offensive after a wave of suicide bombings

Israel took control of Jenin on Wednesday after about 300 Palestinians,
including armed fighters, surrendered to Israeli troops. 

Twenty-eight Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians were killed
in eight days of fighting in the town. 

The Israeli army says it has arrested more than 2,100 militants,
including 117 on its wanted list, and seized thousands of illegal
weapons, since it began its offensive on 29 March following a wave of
suicide bombings. 

In other developments: 

*       Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met top Palestinian officials
at his besieged headquarters in Ramallah 

*       The militant group Hamas said the Israeli army killed the Hebron
chief of its armed wing, Akram Sudki Al Atrash, in the village of Dura 

*       An Armenian monk was seriously wounded in crossfire at the
Church of Nativity in Bethlehem 

*       Israeli snipers shot dead two civilians in Ramallah during a
strict curfew 

*       Palestinian sources said the Islamic Jihad chief in Jenin,
Mahmud Tawalbeh, was killed 

*       Eight Israelis died in the suicide bombing of a bus near Haifa
early on Wednesday - the first such attack for nine days was claimed by

Powell's mission 

The secretary of state is due to arrive in Jerusalem after stopping off
in Jordan. 

 US Secretary of State Colin Powell

Powell: Faces Israeli determination to continue offensive

Mr Powell will hold talks with Mr Sharon on Friday and is expected to
meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday. 

Mr Arafat has been isolated in his compound in Ramallah since the first
day of Israel's offensive. 

US President George Bush decided to send Mr Powell to the region to try
to secure a ceasefire and implement a step-by-step plan leading both
sides back to peace talks.



Source: BBC online


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