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Israel Storms Two More Palestinian Towns - 2001-10-20


Israeli troops have stormed into two more towns in the West Bank and at least five Palestinians have been killed in escalating violence.

In what appears to be emerging as the largest Israeli military operation in more than a year of bloodshed, troops raided the Palestinian-ruled towns of Qalqilya and Tulkarem in the West Bank.

In Qalqilya, a Palestinian policeman and a member of the militant Islamic group Hamas were killed. Two Palestinian policemen in Tulkarem also died in the fighting.

Israeli soldiers commandeered several houses in both towns and set up military positions there. In a statement, the Israeli army says it destroyed "positions from which firing had taken place recently against Israeli targets."

In a separate incident, hospital sources say a Palestinian woman was killed when she was hit by gunfire in Beit Jala.

The latest incursions follow similar raids into Palestinian-ruled Beit Jala, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jenin in the West Bank.

The military attacks began after Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated by Palestinians earlier this week. The militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has given the Palestinians an ultimatum to extradite those responsible for the cabinet minister's death. Palestinian officials say they will track down the suspects, but will not hand them over to Israel.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo is calling for international intervention to support a ceasefire that has been shattered by recent violence. "There is a responsibility for the U.S. administration to intervene immediately in order to put an end to this policy of bloodshed and occupation and in order to oblige Sharon to respect his commitments and obligations according to the rules of the ceasefire," he said.

The continuing cycle of violence is threatening U.S. efforts to bring calm to the region and recruit Arab and Islamic nations into an international coalition against terror following last month's attacks on New York and Washington.