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Israel Tightens Security in Bethlehem - 2003-02-12


Israeli forces have tightened security in Bethlehem, sending in tanks for the first time in months, after a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli army officer near the Church of the Nativity. Two Israeli tanks took up positions in Manger Square late Tuesday night after a sniper opened fire on a jeep there killing an army captain. A curfew is now in effect in Bethlehem.

Israeli forces took control of most West Bank cities and towns in mid-June after a series of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli forces killed an eight-year old boy when they shot at a group of Palestinians throwing firebombs at them in the West Bank town, Qalqilyah. They also killed a Palestinian they said was trying to evade capture in Nablus. A third Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops as he approached a security fence in Gaza.

Israel imposed a travel ban on Palestinians in the occupied territories, Monday. Officials said intelligence reports showed Palestinian groups had planned nearly 50 terrorist attacks. The restrictions are expected to remain in place until Friday.

Meanwhile, high-level talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials scheduled for Tuesday were postponed. Israeli officials say they expect the meeting to take place later this week.

The talks are expected to focus on a possible withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Palestinian towns, reportedly in return for guarantees that the Palestinian Authority would try to stop militants from attacking Israelis.

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