After Qalqiliya, Israel Takes Bethlehem; At Least Five Palestinians Killed in Ramallah, Eight Israeli Soldiers Wounded
Marking a widening of the operation in the West Bank, Israeli tanks moved into Bethlehem early Monday, stopping 500 yards from the Church of the Nativity, which marks the traditional birthplace of Jesus, witnesses said. The incursion began at 5:30 a.m., just before sunrise.
Earlier, about 60 Israeli tanks, along with bulldozers, moved into Qalqiliya, said the Palestinian governor, Mustafa Malki. The Israeli forces quickly took control of town, in the northern part of the West Bank next to the border with Israel. The Israeli military said troops were searching for suspects and weapons and intended to "destroy the terrorist infrastructure" in the town.
Eight Israeli soldiers were injured during the thrust into Qalqilyah, one of them seriously. They were hurt when a bomb exploded near them during searches for wanted men and weapons in the city, Army Radio reported.
Also, the Israeli military said Monday that soldiers had seized positions overlooking the West Bank city of Tulkarem, not far from Qalqiliya, tightening the closure of the town.
Late Sunday, witnesses and Palestinian officials said Israeli soldiers opened fire and killed five policeman when the Palestinians tried to surrender in Ramallah. "We put our weapons at the main entrance and started to walk out when the Israelis fired on us," said a policeman at the building who would only give his name as Omar. According to AP, he said 17 police remained in the building and the standoff continued.
In a statement, the Israeli military said "wanted men" were in the building and one of them, wearing an explosives belt, opened fire on them. The soldiers chased him and shot him dead, the statement said.
The military statement added that Israeli soldiers entered Ramallah Hospital to look for suspects, but "categorically denies false Palestinian claims of a mass murder and massacre at the hospital." The military spokesman's office said soldiers searched the hospital for suspects "while safeguarding the dignity of those within."
For his part, West Bank preventive security chief Jibril Rajoub told AFP the Israeli army killed some 30 members of the Palestinian security services in Ramallah. "The Israelis have assassinated around 30 Palestinians Sunday night in a building in central Ramallah," said Rajoub. "It is a collective assassination." The victims "are all members of the security forces," said Rajoub, without elaborating.
Rajoub also said that "hundreds of prisoners captured in Ramallah are being used as hostages and demanding that Marwan Barghuti (Fatah leader in the West Bank) give himself up, threatening to kill the hostages if he doesn't hand himself over." (Albawaba.com)
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