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Israeli Army Tightens Grip on Ramallah


The Israeli military is strengthening its grip on the West Bank city of Ramallah, one day after a massive invasion of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that killed 30 Palestinians. A senior Palestinian officer and an Italian photographer were killed in Wednesday's fighting.

Israeli tanks are continuing to rumble through the streets of Ramallah, the main Palestinian commercial and political center in the West Bank.

In one exchange of fire, the deputy commander of the Palestinian Force 17 security service, Fuad Obeidy, was killed.

Witnesses say an Italian freelance photographer, Rafaele Ciriello, was killed when Israeli soldiers in a tank opened fire with a machine gun.

He was the first foreign journalist to be killed in the fighting.

The Israeli army expressed regret for the death, but declined to discuss the circumstances until more information is gathered.

Israeli media say about 20,000 troops are taking part in the sweeping operation in the West Bank and Gaza, which some analysts are calling the largest Israeli military action in at least 20 years.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials welcomed a U.N. Security Council resolution, sponsored by the United States, that for the first time mentions a Palestinian State.

An adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, calls the resolution a positive step, but says it needs to be backed up with action.

Israel Foreign Ministry Ayre Mekel says the Jewish state supports that part of the resolution that demands the immediate end to all acts of violence. "Then there is another paragraph there which clearly accepts the sequence that we have been supporting all along, namely first a cease-fire and eventually the return to the negotiating table," said Mr. Mekel"

The latest violence comes the day before U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni is scheduled to arrive in the region in an attempt to negotiate a cease-fire amid raging Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Since the beginning of this month more than 160 Palestinians and nearly 60 Israelis have been killed in the worst period of bloodshed since the current conflict began in September 2000.

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