Israeli forces move into Bethlehem; Palestinian, Israeli soldier killed in Gaza Strip
Israeli forces moved into Bethlehem early Friday, one day after a suicide bombing attack in Jersusalem that left 11 passengers dead.
The first Israeli forces entered the West Bank town from the south, witnesses said, and surrounded the Dheisheh refugee camp next to the town. Other soldiers headed for the Church of the Nativity, said Israeli military spokesman, according to AP. He said the object was to prevent gunmen from seeking refuge in the church.
He added the goal of the mission was "to change the reality in Bethlehem." He said since the August pullout, Palestinians have set up a "terror infrastructure" and prepared suicide bomb attacks. He conveyed the Palestinian Authority had "failed miserably" in its responsibility to prevent attacks.
According to the Israeli Army, troops imposed a curfew and were searching for 30 Palestinians involved in planning the Thursday suicide bombing and other attacks.
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who met with his defense minister and other officials, decided the army would carry out a "pinpoint operation," Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said. Gissin said Hamas would be the target of the operation.
Israel pulled troops out of Bethlehem in August after a two-month occupation as part of a large-scale Israeli invasion in the West Bank that followed earlier suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The pullout was part of a plan called "Judea First," referring to the southern West Bank - restoring Palestinian security control there as a test for pulling Israeli forces out of other West Bank towns and cities.
In the Gaza Strip, an Israeli soldier was killed Friday morning, when a patrol came under fire from a Palestinian sniper.
The attack, which was followed by prolonged gunfights, occurred in the northern part of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements. The attacker apparently fled to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, entering the Dir al Balah refugee camp. Hamas claimed responsibility for this ambush.
Earlier, Israeli troops killed an armed Palestinian Friday morning trying to infiltrate into Netzarim settlement. According to Israeli media reports, troops saw a group of Palestinians trying to approach the settlement, fired at them, and in searches carried out later, found the body of a Palestinian dresses in Palestinian police uniform and carrying a rifle and hand grenades.
Also, dozens of tanks entered the village of Karara, next to the Kissufim crossing into Israel, residents said. Soldiers blew up the house of a Hamas activist killed in an attack on a Jewish settlement in December, they said. Soldiers also blew up the top floor of another house and arrested seven people. (Albawaba.com)
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