Arrests in Qalandiyah; Israeli tanks redploy around Nablus, Ramallah; Report: Israel might attack Arafat HQ

Published April 21st, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Israeli troops arrested Sunday morning more than ten Palestinians in the Qalandiyah refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.  

 

According to reports, between 13 to 15 Palestinians have been detained, and there have been heavy exchanges of fire.  

 

Palestinian sources said among those arrested, who belong to Hamas and Fatah, was Nasser Abu Hmeid, one of the leaders of the Fatah military wing in the West Bank, and a close aide to Marwana Bargouthi.  

 

One of the houses in the camp was reported to be under Israeli siege.  

 

Elsewhere, Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinians near the Palestinian village of Tamoun, in the Jordan Valley.  

 

Israeli tanks began pulling out of the largest West Bank city, Nablus, early Sunday, hours after leaving parts of Ramallah. 

 

Israeli troops remain in Bethlehem and around Yasser Arafat's battered headquarters, where the Palestinian leader is confined. Israel vows to keep Arafat sealed off until it captures suspects in the October killing of a rightist Israeli cabinet minister who are sheltering in his compound.  

 

According to the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz daily, Israeli security officials have started to discuss the possibility of carrying out an attack on Arafat's compound. This action would be designed to seize the four suspects as well as PA financial chief Fuad Shubaki, who has been, according to Israel, implicated in the attempt to smuggle weapons to the PA aboard the Karine A ship.  

 

Israel has demanded the extradition of the five suspects. Arafat, however, has refused, claiming that agreements between the PA and Israel only require that such suspects stand trial in PA territory.  

 

In addition to the Ramallah compound, the Israeli army said its forces remain in several villages near Jenin. 

 

The withdrawal from Nablus seemed largely complete shortly before dawn. An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a withdrawal was under way. 

 

During the pullout, a group of Israeli settlers tried to march to Joseph's Tomb, where Jews believe Joseph, son of the biblical Jacob, is buried, the official said. The official described the scene as a "major riot," but said the settlers were turned away and eventually left.  

 

After Israeli forces left one of the Nablus buildings they'd occupied for more than two weeks, residents took a first look at their homes. 

 

On Saturday, tanks and armored personnel carriers also were seen heading out of some Ramallah neighborhoods. Raanan Gissin, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman, confirmed some forces were redeploying to just outside the city. "Any place that we've finished ... we pull out," Gissin said.  

 

Israeli troops also remain in the heart of Bethlehem, where they're expected to stay until a standoff between soldiers and Palestinians holed up in the Church of the Nativity ends. According to AP, a Franciscan priest inside the church since the standoff began April 2 said Saturday that the last food supplies had run out. 

 

"There is no food left in the church now for the Palestinians or the monks and nuns," said The Rev. Ibrahim Faltas. There was no running water and electricity was intermittent, he said. Palestinians inside the church said Israeli soldiers propped ladders against the back wall of the compound Saturday and threw inside plastic bottles containing leaflets urging surrender.  

 

"Think well and decide about your life," the leaflets said, according to men inside the church. "About 20 days after you've stormed the church, we know that you are without food, and you must surrender." 

 

The leaflets, signed by the leadership of the Israeli Defense Forces, said anyone unrelated to deadly attacks on Israel would be freed and returned home safely, "but the murderers who are involved in killing civilians will be judged by the law." 

 

In the Jenin refugee camp, 11 people have been wounded in the past two days by stepping on unexploded ordnance, or opening booby trapped doors that Palestinians intended for Israeli troops, the Jenin hospital said. 

 

"I went to my aunt's house to get some things. When I opened the door, it exploded on me," said Ala al-Atef, 15, whose face and right arm were blackened and burned. (Albawaba.com)

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