At least six Palestinians killed in Gaza Strip; Israel says Jenin pullout completed
At least six Palestinians were killed in separate incidents at Gaza Strip Friday morning as the Israeli army said it had pulled out of Jenin and its refugee camp. "Israeli forces completed their mission in Jenin," the army said in a statement.
"The forces which began leaving the city are now encircling the city and the refugee camp to prevent and thwart terrorist activity and the passage of terrorists into Israel."
A Reuters correspondent in Jenin confirmed that Israeli armor and troops had left the city and its refugee camp and taken up new positions on its outskirts.
Elsewhere, Israeli forces carried out new incursions into Palestinian areas Friday. Palestinian witnesses and officials said at least ten tanks and armored vehicles rolled into the central West Bank city of Qalqilya, where sporadic gunfire was heard. Israeli forces appeared to focus on a single neighborhood, where troops searched houses. An army spokeswoman said it was a limited operation and would end shortly. "We are not going to stay there," she said. Later, it was reported that the Israeli forces were pulling out.
Also before dawn, Israeli tanks rolled about 200 meters (yards) into the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip and opened fire with heavy machineguns, killing three men, two of them aged 38 and 30, Palestinian witnesses and officials said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said a soldier shot one of the men because “he had a hand grenade.” Six other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire.
The Israeli army said troops also shot dead two Palestinians who attempted to infiltrate the Netzarim settlement in the central Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for this raid.
Later, an Israeli soldier was very lightly injured, according to Israeli sources, when a car bomb exploded near the junction leading to the Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian driver of the vehicle was killed.
In Bethlehem, gunfire flared overnight around the Church of the Nativity, where Israeli soldiers outside were locked in a two-week-old standoff with Palestinian gunmen holed up inside.
An army spokeswoman said armed Palestinians fired at soldiers "so we shot back." No casualties were reported in this latest clash at the church.
Palestinian sources reported Friday that the head of Hamas' military wing in the area, Khaled Ibrahim Taphesh, was arrested in a house near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Taphesh was arrested along with his deputy, Nasri Zarayeh. (Albawaba.com)
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