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Israeli Siege of Palestinian HQ in Hebron Enters 4th Day - 2002-06-28

Israel's siege of the Palestinian headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron entered its fourth day Friday, amid signs that soldiers are ready to storm the building. Israel is demanding the surrender of wanted militants inside the complex.

Palestinian officials said that Israeli troops have begun destroying a side wall at their headquarters in Hebron. The officials said an army bulldozer has been deployed, in an effort to breach the compound and capture 15 wanted militants. There were also reports that tanks were firing at the four-story hilltop compound. Explosions were being heard at regular intervals.

The siege has become the main focus of Israel's offensive against the Palestinian areas, code-named Operation Determined Path, launched in an effort to halt a campaign of suicide bombings.

Since Tuesday, more than 120 people inside the building have surrendered, including members of the Palestinian security forces, 40 fugitives and a member of the militant Lebanese Islamic group Hezbollah.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that some of those who had surrendered had shown the army the location of Palestinian explosive factories in the area. He said the troops have patience and he hopes that all those inside the Hebron building will eventually give themselves up.

Since the start of the Israeli offensive two weeks ago, seven of the eight main Palestinian cities in the West Bank, including Hebron, have been re-occupied and most are under curfew. Jericho is the only major West Bank city that has not been targeted by the Israeli army.