Following Hebron ambush: Israel retakes city; Sharon, Mofaz decide not to expel Arafat
Israeli soldiers returned to large parts of the Palestinian controlled section of Hebron after 12 Israeli soldiers and settlers were killed and 15 injured.
Following a meeting between Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and top Israeli officers late Friday night, soldiers once again took control of the Palestinian areas of the city and destroyed three houses. In addition, some 40 Palestinians were rounded up and taken for questioning in Hebron.
According to press reports, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mofaz agreed not to exile Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, following the Hebron attack. Army Radio reported that Attorney Dov Weisglass, head of the Prime Minister's Office, said that Arafat would not be exiled, "despite the pain," due to international circumstances.
At least 12 Israelis were killed and some 15 others were injured, some seriously, Friday evening when Palestinians opened fire on a group of Jewish worshippers and Isreali soldiers accompanying them near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.
According to press reports, the Palestinians ambushed the Israelis, hurled grenades at them and opened fire. Heavy gun battles ensued between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Towards midnight, Israeli troops killed two of the Palestinians who carried out the attack, media reports said. Kalashnikov assault rifles and hand grenades were found near their bodies.
Israel Radio reported after midnight that troops had found the body of a third Palestinian in the area where the attack had been carried out. It was not immediately clear if the three had other accomplices.
According to Haaretz, top Israeli defense officials held urgent consultations following the attack.
The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, saying it was avenging the killing of its northern West Bank commander, Iyad Sawalha, by Israeli troops several days ago.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the Palestinians had carried out a "Sabbath massacre." "No political process can take root while these atrocities continue to be carried out by Palestinian terrorists," said ministry spokesman Gilad Millo.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "horrified by the despicable terrorist attack." Annan has spoken out against Israeli military actions but Friday's statement was one his toughest on Palestinian violence.
Hours later Israeli helicopters fired missiles into Gaza City, hitting a metal workshop in a congested area, witnesses said. The army said it was used by Palestinians to manufacture weapons.
Three Islamic Jihad members opened fire on Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday afternoon, Israel Radio reported. The soldiers returned fire, killing one of the men.
In a separate incident earlier in the day, Palestinian sources said that a 21-year-old Palestinan woman was killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank city of Nablus.
On Friday, in Anzar, a Palestinian village near the West Bank town of Jenin, Israeli troops killed Mahmoud Obeid, 28, an activist in Fatah movement, as he tried to evade arrest, Israeli army officials said, according to AP. Obeid's father, Abbas Obeid, said his son was shot and killed when he opened the door to his house to look outside. (Albawaba.com)
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