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Israeli Tanks Shell Palestinian Areas

West Bank: Army seizes hill near Nablus, kills a policeman after gunmen ambush Jewish motorists. Clashes also erupt in Hebron.

July 13, 2001|From Times Wire Services

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces briefly seized a Palestinian-ruled area near the West Bank city of Nablus and killed a policeman with tank fire Thursday after Palestinian gunmen ambushed several motorists, including a Jewish settler couple and their child.

The Israeli army said soldiers took over a hill overlooking the Palestinian-run city and the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha, where the Jewish family members came under fire in their car. Parts of the hill are Palestinian-controlled under interim peace deals.

The army also occupied three homes in the nearby village of Kafr Qallil and razed uninhabited houses, erecting a checkpoint, Palestinian witnesses said.

Israeli tank shells hit two buildings in Nablus belonging to Palestinian intelligence and security forces, killing a policeman and wounding five people, including a 12-year-old boy, security and hospital officials said.

Masked men who said they belonged to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli family.

They released a videotape that showed the settlers' car screeching to a stop and then trying to turn around as gunfire echoed along a lonely road.

"The resistance will continue until the end of occupation," one of the men said, reading from a statement.

Ilana Shmueliyan, who was wounded in the shooting along with her husband and child, said the gunmen stood about 12 feet from the car when they opened fire.

By evening, the troops had left the hill and pulled out of the houses, an army spokeswoman and Palestinian witnesses said.

But just as the operation near Nablus ended, a heavy exchange of fire broke out late Thursday in Hebron between Palestinians and the Israeli military, after two Israelis were seriously wounded in a Palestinian gunfire attack.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks shelled Palestinian buildings, setting one on fire, the heaviest outburst in the West Bank city since a U.S.-sponsored truce was agreed on a month ago.

Israeli forces destroyed a Palestinian police post in Hebron, wounding two policemen. Three other Palestinians were wounded in the exchange, and Hebron's electric power was cut off.

The incidents were fresh evidence that the cease-fire--adopted by the two sides June 13 with the help of CIA Director George J. Tenet and meant to end nine months of Israeli-Palestinian violence--has failed to take root.

Meanwhile, relatives of a Palestinian woman whose newborn died in a taxi on the way to a clinic Tuesday said Israeli soldiers did not bar her from passing a checkpoint, contradicting initial claims by two Palestinian doctors who blamed a checkpoint delay for the boy's death. A doctor said he suffocated because the family members assisting in the birth did not know how to keep his airway open.

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