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Israel Withdraws from West Bank Town - 2001-11-05

Israeli troops pulled back Monday from a Palestinian-ruled town in the West Bank. The withdrawal took place despite the slaying hours earlier of two Israeli teenagers by a Palestinian gunman.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the Israeli troops to withdraw from Qalqilya just hours after the killing of the two teenagers in northern Jerusalem.

But it is also clear that the soldiers are ready to move back in in a moment's notice, as they only retreated to the outskirts of the city.

The Israeli Army said "its forces will be deployed around the city to prevent terror activities launched from its territory."

The withdrawal from Qalqilya leaves Israeli troops encircling four Palestinian towns in the West Bank: Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah and Nablus.

The Israeli army last week pulled out of Bethlehem and Beit Jala.

The towns were blockaded by the army following the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in mid October.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres backed the decision to continue withdrawing the troops despite Sunday's terror attack.

Mr. Peres says those behind the killings could expect no mercy from the Israeli government.

He says the Israeli army will, in his words, "do everything to hit back at these terrorists."

The attack came when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a bus in Jerusalem. A 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl on their way home from school were killed in the attack and at least 40 people were injured. The attacker was shot dead by Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian radical group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, which was condemned by the Palestinian Authority.