Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Israel deepens assaults

RAMALLAH, West Bank (REUTERS) — Israeli tanks rumbled into two West Bank towns Wednesday and battled Palestinian gunmen, deepening a major offensive as gunmen remained holed up in one of Christianity?s holiest sites.

Tanks rolled into Salfit and Jenin in the northern West Bank after the Palestinians dismissed Israeli talk of exiling their embattled leader Yasser Arafat, under siege by Israeli forces surrounding his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Concerned that another front could open on its northern border, Israel urged the United Nations to ask Syrian and Lebanese authorities to stop Hizbollah guerrillas from amassing arms and troops across the Lebanese border.

The army and Palestinian security sources said the new incursions met resistance and battles erupted. Loud explosions and gunfire echoed through Jenin as dozens of tanks advanced from three sides and helicopter gunships hovered in the sky.

Palestinian security sources said a 27-year-old woman had been killed and her sister injured by Israeli gunfire in Jenin, from where several suicide attacks have been launched since an uprising began against Israeli occupation 18 months ago.

Shaher Estya, the mayor of Salfit, said all electricity had been cut in the town after the tanks and troops entered at around three a.m. (7 p.m. EST Tuesday).

About 200 Palestinian militants, many with weapons, remained in Bethlehem?s Church of Nativity, built over the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.

?They have decided to take this church as a safe harbor,? Marc Innaro, a journalist with Italian state broadcaster RAI, told Reuters from inside the church.

He said the gunmen had entered the church Tuesday afternoon. Israeli tanks were deployed outside but the situation was calm early Wednesday morning, he said.

An army spokeswoman said dozens of Palestinian militants had forced their way inside and were shooting from the church. She said the army had brought in a representative to mediate.

Israelis and Palestinians had earlier traded charges about whether holy sites were being respected as clashes broke out between Palestinians and advancing Israeli troops.


Arafat appealed Tuesday for world intervention against what he said were Israeli attacks on Muslim and Christian shrines. Israel denied carrying out such attacks.

?Today in Bethlehem they [Israelis] surrounded the Church of the Nativity and they attacked many other churches and mosques,? Arafat said in a telephone interview with Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television, speaking from Ramallah.

The Israeli military drive, which began Friday, has expanded to new areas despite mounting international calls for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to pull out his forces.

Israel says its military campaign in the West Bank is aimed at isolating Arafat and ?uprooting terrorists? behind suicide attacks that have killed dozens of Israelis.

The Palestinians say Israel intends to reoccupy parts of the West Bank that were handed over to the Palestinians under accords reached in the 1990s and that the aim is to topple Arafat and his Palestinian Authority. Israel denies this.

Israel has been hit by at seven suicide bombings or attempted suicide attacks since the Jewish Passover holiday began a week ago.

The latest was an incident in Baka al-Sharkiyeh, near the ?Green Line? dividing Israel from the West Bank, in which a Palestinian wearing an explosive vest with intent on carrying out a suicide bombing was killed by troops, an army spokesman said.


Sharon stoked controversy Tuesday by saying Arafat could have a ?one-way ticket? to exile. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Arafat, who has sworn to ?die a martyr? rather than bow to Israel, would never leave his homeland voluntarily.

Dovish Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, often at odds with Sharon, said the government had no policy of expelling the Palestinian leader.

In a sign of growing concern, European Union President Spain called a rare emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers for Wednesday to discuss the Middle East crisis. A spokesman said the meeting would be in Brussels or Luxembourg.

Oil prices have hit a six-month high on fears that unrest could spread in the Middle East, which holds two-thirds of world oil reserves, though no support emerged for Iraq?s proposal to use an oil embargo to put pressure on Israel?s supporters.

Raising the prospect of a second front opening in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli positions Tuesday in an area near the border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel responded with cross-border air strikes.

Peres, in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said recent attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets could have ?alarming consequences on the stability of the region.?

The letter requested Annan?s ?immediate and personal intervention? with the governments of Syria and Lebanon ?to prevent any actions by Hizbollah or others against Israel.?

At least 1,143 Palestinians and 403 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian revolt began in September 2000.

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