Dozens of Palestinians and At Least 14 Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank Fighting
In what appears to be the deadliest day since Israel has launched its military offensive in the West Bank, dozens of Palestinians are reported dead Tuesday and at least 14 Israeli soldiers killed.
The bloodiest fighting raged Tuesday in the Jenin refugee camp, where dozens of Palestinian fighters remained holed up in a small area.
Camp resident Jamal Abdel Salam said he was told by the armed men that they were being surrounded by Israeli soldiers in the eastern part of the camp. "They said they prefer death to surrender. They asked me to look after their families," Abdel Salam, an activist in Hamas, told AP in a telephone interview.
Palestinian fighters killed 13 Israeli reserve soldiers in an ambush in the Jenin refugee camp, the heaviest single blow to the Israeli army in 18 months of uprising.
Israeli military commentators said the Palestinian fighters blew up a booby-trapped building which collapsed on one group of soldiers, after which gunmen opened fire on a second army unit that came to their rescue.
"An army patrol by reserve soldiers was ambushed during operations in the Jenin refugee camp. The ambush included the use of explosive devices detonated against them and gunfire from nearby rooftops," the army said in a statement.
"Thirteen soldiers were killed," it said, adding that seven other soldiers were wounded, one of them critically.
The deaths occurred on Tuesday morning but were not disclosed by the Israeli media until late afternoo.
The Jenin refugee camp, in the north of the West Bank, has been the site of the fiercest fighting in a 12-day-old Israeli offensive against Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
Until today, nine Israeli soldiers have been killed in more than a week of fighting in the camp, and estimates by both sides said more than 100 Palestinians have died. An exact count was not possible because Israel barred reporters and medics from the camp.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said dozens of bodies were piled in the streets of the camp and residents were prevented from getting food and water. In a complaint to Israel’s Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli organization said the military has committed serious human rights violations in the camp, including the demolition of homes with residents still inside. "Those who left their houses to try to get supplies were shot at by the army," the organization wrote.
In Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, AP reported Israeli troops took control of the densely populated downtown area, after several days of fierce resistance by Palestinian fighters. At least 41 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, but the toll was not final because some bodies were still lying in the streets, medics said. One Israeli officer was killed Tuesday in Nablus.
Israeli forces also raided the small town of Dura in the southern West Bank. Witnesses in the town said they heard the sound of gunbattles as tanks and helicopters advanced. At least three Palestinians were reported killed. One Israeli soldier was seriously injured, Israel's Army Radio reported.
Israel's siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where more than 200 Palestinian fighters were holed up, entered its second week Tuesday, with no sign of a resolution. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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