Israeli Army Withdraws from Nablus

Published October 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The Israeli army on Monday began withdrawing tanks from Area A, in the vicinity of Nablus, following an order given by Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer.  

Further pullouts are expected in the vicinity of Ramallah and Qalqilya later in the day, according to the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper.  

A security meeting between the head of the Palestinian police in Gaza, General Abd Al Raziq Majaideh, and the head of the Israeli army Southern Command, Major General Doron Almog, took place at Beit Hanoun (Eretz) crossing point between Gaza and Israel on Monday afternoon, despite continuing violence. 

A military source told the paper that lower-level meetings could take place on Tuesday.  

The blockade on Jericho has been ordered lifted, and Palestinians will be allowed to travel on the Jordan Valley highway under the new orders, but only with special permits issued for that purpose. The main highway from Gaza City to Rafiah will also be opened to Palestinian travel, said Haaretz.  

But Palestinian reports said Monday that the army had imposed closures on several areas in the West Bank, one day after Israeli forces eased sanctions on other Palestinian population centers there.  

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat accused Israel of deliberately escalating attacks on Palestinians despite a renewed ceasefire pledge by both sides.  

Arafat was speaking during a visit to Tunisia, five days  

after he and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reaffirmed their truce commitment.  

Israeli troops have shot dead 17 Palestinians in that period.  

"Despite the fact that we announced our peace initiative,  

there is a deliberate escalation from the Israeli side against our cities, villages and camps besides the tight military, economic and financial blockade," Arafat told reporters.  

The Palestinian leader spoke after briefing Tunisian  

President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali on his latest efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He later flew back to Gaza, according to officials quoted by the paper.  

Clashes between the Palestinians and Israelis continued into Tuesday as mortar shells were fired at an Israeli industrial zone between the Gaza Strip and Israel, while the Israeli government eyed the deadline given to Arafat to halt the "unrest," which expires Tuesday at noon. 

Palestinians fired three mortar shells at the Israeli industrial zone, and aimed dozens of grenades at an Israeli army position near Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, said a military source, cited by AFP. 

The incidents came less that a day after a car bomb exploded in Jerusalem at the start of a Jewish holiday, without causing injuries. 

The large bomb, which was packed with assault rifle bullets, went off near an industrial out-of-town shopping zone in west Jerusalem, blowing apart the booby-trapped car and setting several other vehicles ablaze. 

Nobody was injured by the explosion, although three people were suffering from shock, said police. 

The blast was the first such attack in Israel since Arafat declared a ceasefire on September 18, promising to try to rein in militants attacking Israeli targets. 

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic Jihad in a statement sent to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television channel. The resistance group vowed to stop "Arafat's peace moves and fight on against Israel." 

A senior spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged that the bomb and the spate of shootings since Arafat met with Peres last week showed a lack of will by the Palestinian leadership to shut down the violence. 

"It is obvious that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough, or anything to stop the violence. We don't see a ceasefire, only the continuation of terror," Avi Pazner was quoted by AFP as saying. 

"What we can see on the ground is that the ceasefire is not taking place. The proof of the pudding is in the eating," he added. 

Israeli soldiers also shot and wounded four children on Monday, Palestinian sources and witnesses cited by AFP said. 

A boy aged around 13 was seriously wounded when troops shot him in the back at a roadblock near Ramallah in the West Bank, witnesses said, adding that the gunfire was without provocation. 

Three other Palestinian children were wounded, one seriously, when soldiers opened fire near the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, other witnesses and medical sources said. 

A spokesman for the army claimed some 200 young Palestinians had thrown stones at a military position near the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, and that the soldiers had only fired warning shots in the air. 

The report contrasts sharply with reports by international human rights groups that Israeli troops, which have occupied conquered Palestinian land for 34 years, had developed a pattern of using lethal force in situations in which they faced no immediate threat to their safety – Albawaba.com

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