Wednesday, April 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India





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Israel intensifies attacks
Occupies four towns, asks scribes to leave

Jerusalem, April 2
Israel today intensified its attack on Yasser Arafatís security headquarters while its forces re-occupied four West Bank towns, including Bethlehem, amidst confusing signals from Washington on defusing the deepening crisis.

Heavy gunbattles raged between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem and Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remained confined to a small portion of his office for the fifth day.

Arafatís preventative security chief Jibril Rajoubís headquarters in nearby Beitunia was pounded with tank shells, rockets from helicopter gunships, machine gunfire and small arms.

With no signs of violence in West Asia abating, USA continued to send mixed signals, with the White House and the State Department showing different position on the UN resolution asking Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories.

The State Department said the USA wanted to see an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces, but the White House said the ceasefire should come before the withdrawal.

In an apparent bid to further isolate Arafat, the Israeli government yesterday closed the West Bank and warned foreign journalists to leave.

In Bethlehem, outgunned Palestinians with rifles and grenade launchers fought desperately to keep Israeli troops out of central Manger Square after tanks and armoured vehicles pushed into the Biblical town near Jerusalem overnight.

Witnesses said helicopter gunships poured fire into Manger Square, near the Church of Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, after a fighter damaged a tank with a grenade.

An 80-year-old Palestinian was killed outside his house and two other civilians were hit by sniper fire, the witnesses said, adding that ambulances had been unable to reach them.

Troops thrust into the northern city of Tulkarm and nearby villages of Anabta and Kafr al-Labad in what Israel called a broadening sweep on suicide attackers, militants and weapons. PTI, ReutersBack

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