U.S. Asks Israel To ''Demonstrate Restraint'' As Palestinian Death Toll Rises
Two Palestinians were killed and three others were wounded Friday morning in the West Bank refugee camps of Balata and Jenin during exchanges of fire with Israeli troops, on the second day of an Israeli raid in these two camps.
Palestinians reported that one person was killed in Jenin on Friday morning and thirty others were wounded. He was identified as Haled Jamal Nazam, a senior Hamas activist in the Jenin camp. The second person was killed in Balata overnight.
Fatah movement threatened Friday to launch its rockets at Israeli cities if the Israeli military presence in the camps continued, Israel's Army Radio reported.
At least 14 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed during the heavy gun battles that ensued Thursday in the two refugee camps. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded during the raid, which was carried out with the support of tanks and helicopter gunships. Two Israeli soldiers were also wounded in the course of the operation.
Palestinians fired on Gilo settlement on the edge of Jerusalem throughout Thursday in response to the Israeli raids.
The two camps were penetrated by Israeli troops before dawn Thursday, after an Israeli air force gunship fired two missiles at targets in Balata. Palestinians reported that electricity to the camp has been cut off since the middle of the night.
Occupation troops were also conducting house-to-house searches, carrying out arrests and confiscating weapons.
Palestinian sources said that out of the 14 Palestinians killed in Thursday's fighting, eight were killed in Jenin - six members of the special Palestinian Authority police force and a 65-year-old man - and six were killed in Balata, three of whom were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Over 100 other people were wounded in the fighting, eleven of them critically.
On Thursday afternoon Israeli troops burst into the home of Hussam Hader, a Fatah activist in the Balata refugee camp and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Hader escaped from his home before the troops entered.
Since the outbreak of the Intifada, Hader has often called for the continuation of the struggle, but has emphasized that he only supports armed actions "against the occupation."
Meanwhile, Israeli helicopters fired at targets in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Thursday afternoon, Palestinians reported. They said that the strike was in response to the heavy exchange of gunfire between Palestinians in Beit Jala and Israeli soldiers in the Gilo, which took place throughout Thursday.
A fifty-year-old settler of Gilo was moderately wounded after being hit by a metal object, most likely a bullet, as she was walking down a street.
Earlier Thursday, a 20-year-old man settler very lightly wounded by shrapnel in Gilo. Another settler was lightly wounded Thursday night when a bullet penetrated his car as he drove through Gilo.
According to Israeli reports, twenty-one houses and five cars in Gilo were damaged as a result of the gunfire and mortars fired on Gilo. The mortars were fired by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, who had threatened an attack on Gilo if occupation troops were not removed from the camps.
On Thursday evening, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and asked that he "demonstrate restraint" in the Israeli military operation in the West Bank refugee camps of Balata and Jenin, which began in the early hours of Thursday morning.
"We do believe it is extremely important that every effort be made to avoid harm to civilians," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher commented about the Israeli decision to send its army into the camp near Nablus. Four people have been killed.
"We have been in touch with the Israeli government to urge that utmost restraint be exercised in order to avoid harm to the civilian population."
For his part, Sharon told Powell, according to Israeli media reports, that, "The most important thing today is to end the terrorist activity. For as long as terrorism continues, Israel will continue to take every step necessary to protect its citizens and bring about an end to the terrorism." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)