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Israel Says 300 Palestinian Fighters Surrender; Clashes Continue in West Bank - 2002-04-10

Israel's military said at least 300 Palestinian fighters surrendered Wednesday in a Jenin refugee camp, which has been the scene of fierce fighting for the past several days. Troops are searching house by house for more militants and weapons. Fighting continues in other areas of the West Bank.

Israeli military spokesman Ron Edelheit said the situation in Jenin has calmed down after nearly a week of heavy fighting. "About 300 people surrendered Wednesday. It's fairly quiet and once in a while there are explosions as we are blowing up booby-trapped factories of ammunition," he said.

A Palestinian doctor reached by telephone at his home on the edge of Jenin's camp said he could see heavy smoke rising above the center of the camp. The doctor, who refused to be identified, said his brother called earlier in the morning to say he and other Palestinian men were surrounded by Israeli troops. There is no escape, he told him and the phone went dead.

Earlier on Wednesday a suicide bomber from Jenin blew up a bus near the Israeli port of Haifa. It was the fifth deadly attack inside Israel since Operation Defense Shield was launched a week and a half ago.

In Daheisheh refugee camp on the edge of Bethlehem, Palestinian journalist Amina Odeh said a tight military curfew remains in effect. Reached by phone at her home, she said living conditions have seriously deteriorated. "You see just the mountains of the rubbish, it will be an environmental catastrophe. I don't know which kind of sickness will be," she said.

In the center of Bethlehem, a tense stand-off continues between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen locked inside the Church of the Nativity. An Armenian monk was shot and seriously wounded at the compound early Wednesday.

Despite mounting U.S. pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to continue the Defense Shield operation intended to destroy the groups responsible for the suicide bombings. Israeli forces now control six of the eight major Palestinian cities in the West Bank and have declared them all closed military zones.