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Israeli Army re-occupies West Bank city of Ramallah, 24 dead in Gaza

Ha'aretz, Tuesday, March 12: IDF troops and tanks entered the West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday morning, pushing ahead with their largest offensive in 17 months of conflict. Military sources said the operation was aimed at taking control of most parts of the city and the refugee camps surrounding it.
IDF troops enter Ramallah; 24 Palestinians killed in Gaza Strip

By Amos Harel, Amira Hass, Jonatahn Lis and Haim Shadmi, Ha'aretz Correspondents and agencies

IDF troops and tanks entered the West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday morning, pushing ahead with their largest offensive in 17 months of conflict. Military sources said the operation was aimed at taking control of most parts of the city and the refugee camps surrounding it.

In the Gaza Strip, the wide-scale military operation in the Jabalya refugee camp ended. According to Palestinian sources, 24 Palestinians were killed in the raid. IDF troops destroyed several buildings in the camp, some used by Palestinian security, and blew up a metal works factory in which Kassam-2 rockets and other weapons were manufactured.

IDF tanks and helicopters fired at Palestinian targets as infantry entered Ramallah, but did not meet substantial Palestinian resistance. Dozens of armed Palestinians were seen fleeing toward the center of the city. The IDF has taken control over the entire city, but not of the city center.

During the operation an anti-tank missile was fired Tuesday morning at an IDF bulldozer in Ramallah, lightly injuring two soldiers. There were no other Israeli casualties in the raids.

Palestinian sources said that two Palestinians, a policeman and an 18-year-old, were killed by IDF fire in the city. The army has not approached the offices of Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, although this possibility has been considered.

Palestinian sources said Tuesday that IDF soldiers fired into the compound housing Arafat's West Bank headquarters, wounding a security man, a senior Palestinian official said.

Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo told Reuters that a security man was shot in the chest when bullets ripped into the compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The man was in critical condition, hospital sources said.

An IDF spokesman said he was not aware of an attack on the compound, adding: "There is no intention of the Israeli Defense Forces to attack the headquarters of Arafat".

IDF paratroops also moved into the Amari refugee camp next to Ramallah to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure there. The soldiers took over a Palestinian apartment building.

Palestinians told the French agency that the IDF took over Tuesday morning the town of Wadi al Salka, in the center of the Gaza Strip. According to the report, IDF troops ordered all Palestinian men between the ages of 16 and 60 to gather near the local mosque, where their hands were tied by the troops.

The Israeli offensive continued at full force, in retaliation for bloody Palestinian attacks, as U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni prepared to leave for the region to try to achieve a cease-fire. On Monday, Israeli troops swept through the West Bank town of Qalqilyah and the Deheishe refugee camp, questioning more than 1,100 Palestinians and confiscating weapons and explosives.

A military statement early Tuesday said soldiers had left the Deheisheh camp.

Doctors at two Gaza hospitals said 22 Palestinians were killed and at least 75 wounded. Most were from Palestinian security forces, they said, and others were civilians.
 
 

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