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Israel Refuses to Extend Ceasefire to West Bank, Troops Kill Palestinian Boy


Israel has decided not to extend the week-old ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, citing security reasons. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the decision coincided with a deadly incident in the West Bank, and sporadic truce violations in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet that military operations in the West Bank would continue, to prevent suicide bombings in Israeli cities.

The decision came despite an appeal from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited here last week, and urged Israel to extend the Gaza ceasefire to the West Bank. She said calm in all the Palestinian territories would help create an atmosphere to revive the peace process.

But Israeli generals warned the government that a 24-hour military presence in the West Bank is necessary to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel. The army said it arrested a suicide bomber and an accomplice near the West Bank town of Jenin, who were on their way to carry out an attack.

Israeli analyst Zalman Shoval says a West Bank ceasefire would only benefit Palestinian terrorists.

"They need time to regroup, to refurnish their military and terrorist capabilities, and, therefore, obviously, Israel has to maintain the option of acting militarily, and, I think, it does have the option," said Shoval.

But Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Israeli military actions in the West Bank will eventually erode the truce in Gaza.

"I believe that there is a need to expand the ceasefire, also to the West Bank, in order not to offer any pretext to those who want to damage or to harm the ceasefire, mainly in the Palestinian side," commented Abu Nasser.

As the army continued operations in the West Bank, violence erupted. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager, who was among protesters throwing stones at military vehicles near the town of Nablus.

And in Gaza, Palestinians fired a rocket at Israel in violation of the ceasefire.

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