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Israel Retaliates Against Palestinians For Hadera Attack - 2002-01-18

Israeli warplanes bombed a Palestinian target in the West Bank Friday and tanks tightened the siege around Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters following an attack that left six Israelis dead.

Israeli F-16 warplanes destroyed the Palestinian Authority's main compound in the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

A Palestinian policeman was killed and the buildings were reduced to rubble.

Tanks and armor moved to within 50-meters of Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters and Israeli troops fired tear gas at Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israel has kept Mr. Arafat confined to Ramallah since last month, but says it has no intention of harming him.

The military moves were in retaliation for a bloody attack by a Palestinian gunman Thursday night in the northern city of Hadera that left six Israelis dead.

The gunman burst into a banquet hall where Israelis, including many Russian immigrants, were celebrating a Jewish coming of age party for a 12-year-old girl. The Palestinian sprayed the crowd with automatic weapons fire. When his gun jammed he was attacked with chairs and bottles by partygoers before being shot in the head and killed by police.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed faction of Mr. Arafat's Fatah group, claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the death earlier this week of one of its leaders.

Militant Raed Karmi died in an explosion Palestinians blame on Israel, although the government has not confirmed or denied the military's involvement.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner blamed the latest violence on what he says is Mr. Arafat's failure to crackdown on militant groups.

"Arafat has been doing absolutely nothing to dismantle those terrorist organizations, to arrest those members, and now the sad, tragic results we see them on the streets of Israel. It appears that those terrorist organizations have an endless taste for murdering Jews," he said.

Palestinian legislative council member Hanan Ashrawi charged that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is intent on destroying the Palestinian Authority.

"Very clearly Sharon thrives on conflict, on escalation and he has this preconceived plan to destroy the authority, to destroy the Palestinian national rights as a people with the right to self-determination regardless of what Arafat does or says," he said.

In another incident, Israeli tank fire killed a Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip. The army says he was one of three members of the militant Hamas group who were trying to infiltrate into Israel.

This week's upsurge in violence has left a cease-fire called by Mr. Arafat last month in tatters, and returned the region to the bloody cycle of attacks, retaliation and revenge that first erupted nearly 16-months ago.