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6/21/2017 8:25:40 PM
Posted: 8/14/2001 7:45:25 PM EDT
Israeli Tanks Move Toward Bethlehem By Nael Shyoukhi Reuters BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Aug. 15) - Israeli tanks moved into positions near the West Bank town of Bethlehem hours after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned the Palestinian Authority it could pay a heavy price if a 10-month-old uprising does not end. The midnight movement of at least a dozen tanks on Tuesday night came 24 hours after Israeli tanks entered the northern West Bank town of Jenin and demolished a police building in a response to Palestinian suicide bombings. The force withdrew from Jenin three hours after the incursion, the deepest into Palestinian territory since an uprising against Israeli occupation erupted last September after peace talks stalled. Overnight, Palestinian witnesses said tanks were poised on the edge of two villages under Israeli security control east of Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, and were inside the village of Beit Tamre, which had been placed under curfew. Tanks were also at the edge of the Palestinian-ruled towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, which adjoin Bethlehem, but had not entered territory under Palestinian control, they said. But an Israeli army spokesman said no troops or vehicles had been moved near the two towns and denied ''any entry into Palestinian-controlled areas.'' On Tuesday, Sharon warned that ''whoever has turned to the way of terror will also pay a political price,'' referring to Israel's takeover of nine Palestinian offices in and around Jerusalem after a suicide bombing killed 16 people in the city last week. ''If the violence continues the Palestinians will lose more assets and they have something to lose,'' he told a ceremony for Israeli police. Three Palestinian police and a civilian were hurt in the Jenin raid which was criticized by the United States, United Nations, France and Russia. President Bush described the Middle East as a ''cauldron of violence,'' calling on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to ''clamp down on the suicide bombings and on the violence.'' ''The Israelis must show restraint,'' he added. The Palestinian Authority branded the operation a ''declaration of war'' and Palestinian diplomats sought a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday to discuss the Israeli raids and an international protection force. The incursion followed two suicide bombings inside Israel -- including the attack in central Jerusalem -- which were carried out by two Palestinians from villages near Jenin in the West Bank. IN ISRAEL'S SIGHTS ''We believe that the entry of the Israeli tanks into Jenin city is part of the Israeli plan to undermine the peace process and to undermine the Palestinian Authority. We have been saying that this is Israel's exit strategy from the peace process,'' said Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat. Palestinian-ruled Bethlehem and Beit Jala appeared to be in Israel's sights following a protracted gun battle in the area on Tuesday morning. Sharon pledged to crack down on the frequent shooting from Beit Jala toward Gilo, a settlement built on the outskirts of Jerusalem on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East War. Israelis regard Gilo as a neighborhood of Jerusalem. ''We will also reach a point where Gilo...won't be under fire,'' Sharon said.
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