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Israeli Army Destroys Palestinian Authority Headquarters in Hebron - 2002-06-29

The Israeli army has destroyed the Palestinian Authority's municipal and security headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron, but there is no word on what became of the suspected militants thought to have been hiding inside.

The Israeli military said it used more than two tons of explosives in the two blasts that brought down the four-story building, ending a siege that began last Tuesday.

Israeli troops have been searching the rubble and have found weapons and ammunition but no trace of the 15 men thought to have been holed up inside.

Israeli Army Radio said it is likely that the wanted men are dead in the rubble. But Palestinians in the area were quoted by news agencies as saying the militants had left the building before it was brought down. There had been no firing from inside the complex since Friday morning.

More than 130 Palestinians, including suspected militants and security personnel, left the building over the past four days. Of that group, some 20 people were taken into Israeli custody.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the destruction of the building showed, what he termed, "the brutality of the occupation."

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses said a Palestinian woman was killed and her husband wounded when they were hit by machine gun fire from an Israeli tank. In addition to Hebron, Israeli troops have taken up positions in six other West Bank cities, leaving Jericho as the only major population city still under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

More than 600,000 Palestinians have been confined to their homes since the Israeli military offensive began 10 days ago. The campaign followed two suicide bombings in Jerusalem that killed 26 Israelis.

Israel has said it will keep its forces in place in the Palestinian Authority territories until the attacks on Israel stop.