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Israel Destroys Palestinian Police HQ in Jenin - 2001-08-14

Israeli tanks and bulldozers have pulled out of the West Bank town of Jenin after an assault that destroyed police headquarters in the Palestinian-ruled town.

Tanks and bulldozers rumbled into Jenin in the first major Israeli incursion into a Palestinian-controlled town in more than ten months of violence. Heavy fighting erupted, and the Palestinian police headquarters was demolished.

The army says the assault was in response to recent Palestinian suicide bombings. Israeli officials say the latest such attack, carried out Sunday near the coastal city of Haifa, was directed from Jenin.

Dore Gold is a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "This isn't about retaliation, this isn't about revenge," he said. "This is about accountability. Jenin has become a hub of terrorism against northern Israel. At least four or more terrorist attacks have emanated from Jenin, and the Palestinian Authority has not lifted a finger to stop this. We are saying stop the terrorism and stop it now."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced the incursion and called on the United Nations Security Council for protection. "I hope that the Security Council will convene immediately in order to halt these Israeli measures and actions and this Israeli aggression," said Mr. Erekat, "because the whole Middle East region, if they go ahead with their occupation of the West Bank again and the Gaza Strip again, will never be the same." In recent months, Israeli tanks have entered Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip, but have not launched major raids in the West Bank.

Gun battles later exploded in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and between nearby Beit Jala and the Jewish community of Gilo, built on disputed land adjacent to Jerusalem.

Near the West Bank city of Hebron, the army says a Jewish settler was wounded, and a child slightly hurt, when Palestinian gunmen fired on their car.

In more violence, a Palestinian man, Shadi al-Asfuri, was killed in an explosion in Nablus. He was identified as an activist from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.