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Israeli Tanks Move into West Bank - 2001-09-13

Israeli tanks moved into the West Bank towns of Jenin and Jericho briefly Thursday and destroyed several buildings. At least four Palestinians were killed and more than 20 wounded. But there is a possibility Israeli and Palestinian leaders may soon meet for talks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres confirms there are tentative plans to hold talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. But Mr. Peres says there are still details to work out. Israel Radio says the talks could take place Sunday at the airport in Gaza.

The two men were due to meet earlier this week but could not agree on where. The talks were postponed again after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called both men to urge them to go ahead with the meeting, which is aimed at working out a ceasefire to end the violence that has engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories for the past year. More than 700 people have been killed in the violence, most of them Palestinians.

Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Irdeineh accuses Israel of exploiting the terrorist attacks in the United States to escalate its campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza. He says Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat has raised the issue with U.S. and European officials. "The Israeli government is escalating its war against the Palestinians, taking advantage of what happened in New York and Washington," he said. "The Israeli government is dragging the whole region into violence."

Israeli tanks moved into Jenin and Jericho in the early morning hours on Thursday. Tanks have been massed on the outskirts of Jenin since Tuesday. They moved in briefly overnight on Wednesday, targeting a Palestinian police office there. The tanks finished destroying the building during the raid Thursday.

Israeli tanks also moved into Jericho and shelled two buildings there. They also hit a police training center as well.

An Israeli military spokesman told reporters the army suspected militants there may be preparing attacks against Israelis.

Israel has tightened security at checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza after the terrorist attacks in the United States. It also has closed its land borders with neighboring Jordan and Egypt.