Israeli military units launched a massive attack on two West Bank refugee camps early Thursday, a first in 17 months of Intifada. At least 11 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in heavy gun battles, and more than 50 Palestinians were wounded.
Despite this, Palestinian and Israeli security officials held new talks aimed at defusing tensions. The Palestinian side delayed the meeting by two hours to protest the Israeli aggressive operations.
The military strike came just hours after a Palestinian woman with an explosives belt strapped to her body blew herself up near an Israeli checkpoint late Wednesday.
The suicide bomber was identified as Dareen Abu Aisheh, a 21-year-old English literature student at An Najah University in the city of Nablus. Abu Aisheh was the second woman to blow herself up since the fighting started in September 2000.
Attack on Camps
There are reports that at least 11 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli incursion began just after midnight. Israeli infantry troops backed by armored units, headed after midnight into Jenin and Balata refugee camps, both located in Palestinian Authority controlled Area A.
Three residents of Balata, located near the city of Nablus, were killed in clashes, and 80 were wounded, some of them critically, an eyewitness said.
Two Israeli soldiers were also lightly wounded as heavy gunbattles broke out with armed Palestinians. Palestinian forces also detonated a number of large explosive devices against Israeli troops.
Palestinians said Israeli forces fired two missiles at Balata, knocking out electricity in the camp, a stronghold of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
Israeli forces moved into a Nablus street across from the camp several days ago, occupying apartment buildings and parking tanks along the street.
In Jenin, Israeli tanks entered the city from three directions, Palestinians said, surrounding the refugee camp at the western edge of this West Bank city. At least five members of the Palestinian security services were killed there in exchanges of fire with the Israelis, Palestinians said.
Mosque loudspeakers in the Jenin refugee camp are calling out the names of eight martyrs killed in the Israeli continuing aggression. The mosques are also calling on Palestinian gunmen to refrain from shooting at Israeli troops from populated areas and buildings housing unarmed civilians.
There are reports that two suicide bombers are prepared to attack Israeli troops operating in the camp.
The Palestinian caught in Haifa on Tuesday carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle and several ammunition clips was reportedly from the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli army spokesman has released a statement saying the two refugee camps are “hotbeds of anti-Israel terrorist activity which have operated with impunity until last night.”
In addition to the attack on the camps, Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinians overnight in the Tulkarem area Irtah and in Zabayat, located near Jericho.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
The Palestinian Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened to open "new fronts", including "outside Palestine", in the wake of the Israeli deadly incursions into the refugee camps. The group made the threat in a statement sent to AFP.
"The command of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has instructed all volunteers for martyrdom to be ready to riposte to all incursions into our camps and open new fronts without precedent inside Palestine and outside," it said.
The Brigades, which are particularly active in the West Bank, have up till now carried out their actions within Palestine.
Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli security officials began new talks aimed at defusing tensions, after the Palestinians delayed them by two hours to protest the Israeli attacks in the West Bank, officials told AFP.
The meeting held Thursday in the presence of US officials at the Erez crossing on the northeastern border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian officials said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )