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Israel Calls Up Hundreds of Reservists to West Bank, Gaza Strip Duty - 2003-10-19


Israel is calling up hundreds of reserve soldiers to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, amid warnings that Palestinian groups are planning more terror attacks.

Some of the five extra battalions of reserve soldiers will protect Israeli communities situated close to the West Bank. Others will be posted in the Jordan Valley and in the Gaza Strip.

An army spokeswoman says there is no alternative to the call-up, given the large number of warnings that Palestinians are planning to launch more suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

The decision was announced as Israeli troops pulled out of a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Gaza, ending four days of operations, aimed at searching for tunnels allegedly used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. At least four Palestinian militants and four bystanders were killed, and 15 homes demolished in the latest raid into the Rafah refugee camp.

Shortly after the troop pullback, Palestinian militants in another part of Gaza fired at least eight homemade Kassam rockets Sunday at a town in the Negev area of Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Meanwhile, three senior members of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement left for Washington Sunday for talks with officials and Congress members on arranging a truce with Israel.

Israel has ruled out reaching a cease-fire agreement, until the Palestinian leadership first dismantles and disarms Palestinian groups that carry out violent attacks.

Israeli officials said they doubted that the trip by the three Fatah members would achieve any results, and insisted that the first step toward peace would be for the Palestinian leadership to rein in Palestinian militants.