Israeli forces stepped up fierce reprisal raids on Monday, killing 19 Palestinians, including a mother and her three children.
On the night, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a building in Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's headquarters compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah - he was unhurt - Israeli warplanes destroyed a security headquarters in Bethlehem.
Shortly before these air strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recommended a harsh stance against the Palestinians on Monday, saying that they needed to receive "a heavy blow," which he said was the only way to force them back to the negotiating table.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Sharon said that the Palestinians "must be dealt a heavy blow, which will come from every direction. Anyone wishing to conduct negotiations with [the Palestinians] must first hit them hard, so that it is clear to them that they will achieve nothing through terror. If it is not made clear to them that they are overpowered, we will be unable to return to negotiations."
According to Haaretz, he said that the Palestinians were familiar with his political plan and that it offered them hope, but they still believed that they could "achieve more through terror." "We must inflict heavy losses on their side," he said. "The Palestinian Authority will not fight terror because they are the terror."
Sharon also vowed that his government would not be defeated by the current situation, but would stand firm despite the situation. "Previous governments... were willing to give up, but not this government," he said. "This government will not give up. A great deal of patience is necessary, as this is already a difficult war."
Sharon said that he would put forward again soon his suggestion to replace the blockade of Israeli tanks around Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. The plan had been vetoed Sunday by Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer during a meeting of the "kitchen cabinet". Sharon said he wants to raise the proposal at an extended cabinet meeting, where he would enjoy majority support.
Sharon’s remarks came at the end a bloody day in the West Bank and Gaza. At least 19 Palestinians, including four children, lost their lives in various incidents.
Six Palestinians were killed in Monday afternoon adjacent to Ramallah as a result of an Israeli shell that landed on two cars. Ten other Palestinians were killed in Israeli raids throughout the day - three were killed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, six were killed in the Jenin refugee camp, and one was killed in near Nablus.
Four Israelis were injured Monday evening in various attacks. Two Israeli motorists were wounded when Palestinians opened fire upon their vehicle near the West Bank city of Hebron. One sustained moderate wounds, while the other was lightly wounded.
A young girl was lightly wounded when Palestinians threw stones at a bus she was traveling in north of Jerusalem. Also on Monday evening, an israeli soldier was lightly wounded in a gunfight in the Palestinian village of Halhoul, south of Hebron.
Also in the evening, Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli warplanes fired six missiles at buildings used by both Force 17 and Palestinian intelligence in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Six Palestinians, including the wife of a Hamas activist and their three children, were killed Monday afternoon by an Israeli tank shell fired on two cars in Ramallah. Another child was also killed in the attack.
Palestinian sources reported that the strike was a botched Israeli assassination attempt on Hamas activist, Hussein Abu Kweik, who was not in the car at the time of the explosion.
The Palestinian head of security in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, said the vehicle was hit by two tank shells fired from the nearby settlement of Psagot.
In an interview with Qatari-based Al Jazeera satellite television, Kweik said: "My wife Bushra was martyred, as well as my two daughters, Aziza, 14 and Barra, 13, and my son Mohammed, 10."
Palestinian sources reported that five people - four civilians and senior Fatah member Amjad al Fakhouri - were killed in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. Two were killed by fire from Israeli helicopter gunships, the sources said.
A number of sources reported that israeli troops had prevented medical teams from treating the wounded in Jenin.
The director of the Red Crescent in Jenin, Dr. Saliman Halil, was killed when Israeli troops at the Jenin roadblock opened fire on the ambulance in which he was traveling, en route to the Jenin camp to treat gunshot victims.
In the Gaza Strip, soldiers shot dead three Palestinians during the raid. Palestinian medics and witnesses said two were civilians.
The troops demolished three houses and a police post and clashed with gunmen before pulling out five hours later, Palestinian witnesses said.
Israeli troops also shot dead a Palestinian youth at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday morning.
meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official warned that an Israeli cabinet decision to turn up the heat on Palestinian militants will only lead to more bloodletting on both sides.
"We regret that the Israeli government has decided to escalate attacks against the Palestinians," Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told a press conference.
"This will only lead to the loss of victims on both sides," he warned, according to AFP.
An Israeli security cabinet late Sunday vowed to step up military pressure on the Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat in its hunt for "terror organizations", following a deadly weekend in which 22 Israelis were killed.
"We hope that the Israelis will be rational and stop crimes against the Palestinians," Abed Rabbo said.
"We want to tell the Israelis that we will not surrender whatever measures they will take. There is only one solution: going to negotiations and a political solution," he concluded.
For his part, Jibril Rajoub told Reuters: "These are massacres and it is these crimes that make suicide bombers out of our people and bring about retaliation and more victims and bloodshed."(Albawaba.com)
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