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Israeli Forces Enter Nablus in Latest Mideast Violence - 2002-02-10


In the latest cycle of Middle East violence, Palestinians have shot dead an elderly Israeli woman who was traveling near her home in the West Bank. And in a nearby Palestinian town, Israeli troops wounded several Palestinians in clashes early Sunday.

Seventy-nine year-old Atala Lipovsky was making her way to the Jewish settlement Maaleh Ephraim in the West Bank along with her two sons when shots were fired on their car late Saturday. One bullet hit Ms. Lipovsky in the head. A second one grazed her son, who was driving the car. Despite the ambush, he continued navigating the car to an Israeli roadblock nearby where his mother was pronounced dead.

The Israeli army said the gunmen probably shot at the car from a nearby hill or from a passing vehicle. Palestinians have frequently targeted Israeli settlers during more than 16 months of fighting in the West Bank.

Several hours later, not far from the scene of the shooting, Israeli tanks and troops entered two neighborhoods in the West Bank town of Nablus, which is under full Palestinian control.

The soldiers searched several buildings and clashed with Palestinian gunmen. Three Palestians were arrested and several other were wounded in the brief gunbattle. Other Israeli troops have been scouring nearby villages since last week, when a Palestinian militant shot his way into a Jewish settlement, killing a soldier, a woman and her 11-year-old daughter before being shot dead.

The Israeli army says the troops are looking for accomplices in that attack. At least a dozen Palestinians have been questioned and released.

The latest violence came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wrapped up a three-day visit to the United States.

According to Israeli reports, Mr. Sharon asked President George W. Bush to tow a tougher line with Yasir Arafat but could not persuade Washington to cut off ties with the Palestinian leader.

President Bush has been severely critical of Mr. Arafat since Israel last month captured a ship full of weapons it said were bound for the Gaza Strip. Israel says the Palestinians bought the weapons from Iran.