Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Israeli forces pull out of two West Bank cities

TULKARM, West Bank (REUTERS) — The Israeli army pulled out of two West Bank cities Tuesday after President Bush heatedly demanded a defiant Prime Minister Ariel Sharon start a withdrawal from Palestinian areas.

The United States said it hoped the move out of Qalqilya and Tulkarm in the central West Bank signaled the beginning of a wider pullback.

But Israel gave no indication when its forces would quit other cities, villages and refugee camps seized in a fierce armor, infantry and aerial offensive after a suicide bomber killed 27 people in Israel March 27.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled out of Qalqilya and Tulkarm under cover of darkness. The Israeli Defense Ministry said a blockade around the two cities would be tightened after the pullback.

“It’s a start,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in the first U.S. reaction to Israel’s announcement of a pullback.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at the start of a Middle East mission, welcomed the Israeli move but added, “Let us hope that this is not a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but the beginning of a pullback.”

Failure to heed Bush’s demands threatened to plunge Israel deeper into diplomatic conflict with the United States, its main ally and provider of $3 billion in annual aid.

In tough remarks to reporters Monday, Bush vented his impatience with Sharon’s continued defiance of his calls for an end to Israel’s biggest military campaign in the West Bank since it captured the area in the 1967 Middle East war.

“I meant what I said to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be withdrawal without delay,” Bush said during a visit to Tennessee.

In Tulkarm, Israeli forces blew up the local Palestinian intelligence headquarters before getting into their vehicles and leaving under heavy covering fire, witnesses said. Two columns of armor pulled out of Qalqilya with no shooting reported.

Fighting raged in the Palestinian-ruled cities of Jenin and Nablus, where resistance to Israel’s sweep for militants and weapons has been far stronger than in Tulkarm and Qalqilya.

Israeli troops fired shots at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where 200 gunmen and civilians were holed up. Each side said the other fired first.

Israeli forces shot dead five Palestinians — a woman, a mother and son and two gunmen in Jenin refugee camp. Two Israeli soldiers were killed.

In Ramallah, troops killed three Palestinians, including a man accompanying his wife after she had given birth, Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said. Israel has said it has killed some 200 Palestinians since the operation began.

Zinni delivers message

To make sure Sharon got his message, Bush sent his Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni to deliver it personally to the Israeli leader at his Jerusalem office.

Bush, who has been scathing in his criticism of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat over recent suicide bombings in Israel, began piling pressure on Sharon as European and Arab leaders stepped up calls for stronger U.S. intervention to end 18 months of bloodshed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Monday Israel would ease a quarantine of Arafat by letting him meet Powell.

He suggested in a BBC interview the encounter could take place in Arafat’s besieged Ramallah headquarters.

Palestinian officials had said they would boycott Powell if he did not hold talks with Arafat.

Before meeting Zinni, Sharon told Parliament the military operation would be speeded up but will continue until the army achieved its goals.

Israeli commentators, however, had forecast Israel would bow to U.S. pressure and carry out a partial pullout ahead of Powell’s arrival in Israel Friday.

Powell received a chilly reception from Morocco’s King Mohammed, who asked him why he had not begun his trip in Jerusalem.

Powell told the monarch he wanted to consult with European Union and Arab colleagues beforehand to coordinate his mission.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hit back at the Israeli incursion by announcing an immediate month-long suspension of all Iraqi oil exports, sending oil prices soaring.

Tensions on Israel’s northern border

Tensions rose along Israel’s northern border where Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli military positions in a disputed frontier area, drawing Israeli artillery fire and air strikes on south Lebanese border towns.

Late Monday, at least two rockets were fired at the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shimona from an area on the Lebanese border controlled by Hizbollah. Israeli security sources said both landed harmlessly.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer’s office said he spoke by telephone with Powell and asked him to press Syria, the main powerbroker in Lebanon, to rein in Hizbollah.

Border violence during Israel’s West Bank offensive has fanned fears in Israel that Hizbollah — which has often hinted it would intervene militarily to back the Palestinian uprising — is trying to open a second front.

At least 1,238 Palestinians and 422 Israelis have been killed since the Palestinian uprising began.

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