Accessibility links

Israeli Troops Launch West Bank Operation in Response to Suicide Bombing - 2003-08-21

Israeli troops have moved into towns across the West Bank, in a military response to a suicide bombing this week that claimed 20 lives and left more than 100 other people wounded. The move came following a decision by the Israeli Security Cabinet to track down those attacking Israel.

Israel Radio says the operation is aimed at those who have carried out recent attacks against Israelis and that the military will stay in place for as long as it takes to complete the job.

The operations are continuing in Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem, where one Palestinian was killed and a number of others were wounded, in clashes with the Israeli troops. Israeli military sources say the soldiers are searching for bomb laboratories and fugitive Palestinians. There were a number of arrests reported in the Jenin area, overnight.

Israel Radio says the operations are likely to continue for several days and will include incursions into the Gaza Strip - recently returned to Palestinian control. Israel's security cabinet gave the military orders to launch operations, if the Palestinian Authority did not crackdown on terrorist groups.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said, "If the Palestinian government does not take all the steps necessary in the war on terror -- actual and meaningful steps -- it will not be possible to move to the stage of diplomatic discussion."

The security cabinet also decided to renew its "targeted killings" operations, focusing on what it calls terror activists and leaders in the militant Islamic organizations.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met with his cabinet, overnight. A statement released afterward says Palestinian security forces will immediately begin implementation of security measures required by the "road map" peace plan.

It also says the Palestinian Authority is committed to controlling weapons and it announced a ban on public demonstrations by militant groups.

Palestinian media reports say Prime Minister Abbas delivered an ultimatum, threatening to resign unless Yasser Arafat gave his backing for an unprecedented crackdown on the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

So far, there have been no reports that Palestinian security forces have taken action against the militant groups. However, Israel Radio reported Palestinian police have banned all Palestinian media from interviewing anyone from Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The report says the offices and newspapers of both organizations are to be closed.