Palestinian death toll mounts

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 22:40:43 +0100

 Israeli tanks enter the West Bank town of Nablus
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1915000/images/_1915793_tanksflag300.jpg>

The Israeli offensive has sparked international protests 

The Israeli army says it has killed at least 200 Palestinians in its
sweeping 10-day offensive in the West Bank. 

Reports have spoken of dozens of dead bodies lying in the streets of
Jenin refugee camp where the army met much stiffer resistance than
expected from Palestinian fighters. Seven of its own soldiers have died
there. 

 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/in_depth/world/2002/middle_east/westban
k_popup_map/smmap.gif>  
 
<javascript:popUpOne('/hi/english/static/in_depth/world/2002/middle_east
/westbank_popup_map/pop_up_map.stm')> Enlarge image      Click
<javascript:popUpOne('/hi/english/static/in_depth/world/2002/middle_east
/westbank_popup_map/pop_up_map.stm')> here for map of Israeli operation
        
Israel's strongest backer, the United States, has called for an end to
the incursions, which have turned about a dozen Palestinian towns and
villages into war zones. 


But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon resisted US pressure, saying only that
the offensive - launched to combat the threat of Palestinian suicide
bomb attacks - would be speeded up, not ended. 


President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on US
television on Sunday that the pullout should begin "now, without delay,
not tomorrow". 


But she gave the Israelis room for manoeuvre over the manner of any
withdrawal, saying it should not be "helter-skelter and chaotic". 



  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/startquote.gif> 


The world is watching and Israel needs to end this pitiless assault on
civilian refugee camps 
  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/endquote.gif> 


UN official Peter Hansen 
Meanwhile the head of the United Nations agency responsible for
Palestinian refugees has called on the Israeli army to end its "pitiless
assault" on civilian refugee camps in Nablus and Jenin. 

"We are getting reports of pure horror," said Unrwa chief Peter Hansen."
That helicopters are strafing civilian residential areas; that
systematic shelling by tanks has created hundreds of wounded; that
bulldozers are razing refugee homes and that food and medicine will soon
run out." 


Confused picture 


Army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz said more than 200 Palestinians have
been killed and 1,500 injured since the offensive was launched on 29
March. 


An Israeli field commander said more than 30 Palestinian guerrillas were
killed in two days of close combat in Nablus. 




 President Bush speaks to Ariel Sharon from his ranch in Texas
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1915000/images/_1915793_bushphone150.jpg>

Bush was unusually blunt in his words to Israel

Palestinian officials say there has been a "massacre" in Jenin, with
more than 30 people including civilians, women and children among the
dead. 

The figures cannot be confirmed because neither medics nor the media
have been allowed access. The Palestinian Red Crescent says there are 12
confirmed deaths in Jenin, but that does not include anyone killed in
the last two days when fighting was heaviest. 



Jenin and Nablus have been under heavy and continuous shelling for
several days. Some areas are surrounded by Israeli troops as Palestinian
guerrillas defend dense mazes of streets and alleyways. 



  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/startquote.gif> 


Where is Powell? Sharon is using the time between now and his arrival to
destroy everything 
  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/endquote.gif> 


Palestinian official Saeb Erekat 
Israeli troops and tanks surrounded several small villages near Ramallah
on Sunday, including two villages where the forces entered and conducted
house to house searches. 

In the Gaza Strip, which has not been part of the current offensive,
thousands of people gathered for the funeral of five people in Rafah -
including two young girls and an elderly man killed by Israeli tank fire
on Saturday. 


Diplomatic moves 


US President George W Bush followed up his demand for Israeli withdrawal
with a 20-minute phone call to Mr Sharon, and US officials said he
demanded an immediate pullout, not just promises of future action. 


US Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to arrive in the region on
Monday, but will not reach Israel until later. 



The foreign minister of Spain - which currently holds the European Union
presidency - said the EU would discuss imposing sanctions on Israel if
it continued its incursions on Palestinian territory. 


"Some countries are in favour of introducing sanctions very, very soon,
others are more reluctant," Josep Pique said. 


Ambulances 'obstructed' 


Statements from Mr Sharon's office said the Israeli offensive was being
prolonged by the need to prevent harm to civilians. 


An Israeli army spokesman told Israeli radio the operation in Jenin
could end on Sunday. 




 Bethlehem
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1915000/images/_1916064_bethlehem150.jpg>

The curfew was briefly lifted in Bethlehem for residents to buy supplies

A Palestinian doctor told the BBC that Israel was firing heavy weaponry
from the hills around the town and that ambulances had been unable to
reach the dead and wounded. 

UN relief workers said a convoy of food aid had reached Nablus but they
could not distribute it because of the security situation. 


Several thousand Israeli peace campaigners gathered in Tel Aviv on
Saturday night under the slogan "End occupation, start negotiation". 


But opinion polls show that Israelis, rocked by suicide bombings that
have deepened fears that no place in Israel is safe, overwhelmingly
support the operation. 


In another development to heighten the sense of crisis, Israeli security
sources said at least two people were wounded in an cross-border attack
by Lebanese guerrillas on Sunday evening. 


Israeli civilians living near the border were ordered into bomb shelters
amid fears that the Palestinian militant groups and the Shia Muslim
Hezbollah were trying to make Israel to fight on two fronts. 

Source: BBC online

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