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Israeli assaults slay 9 Palestinians


RAMALLAH, 25 October — Israeli forces killed at least five Palestinians in a fierce air, armor and infantry assault on a West Bank village yesterday which defied a US call for a pullout from Palestinian territory. But the Palestine Authority put the number of dead at nine.

The new bloodshed dealt another blow to Washington’s efforts to end more than a year of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, which it hopes would bolster Arab support for its campaign in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

The army’s West Bank commander said Palestinians involved in the killing a week ago of far-right Cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi were arrested in the raid on the village of Beit Rima. Israel Radio said the actual shooter was still at large.

The Palestinian Authority called it a massacre and blamed it on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his army chief. But amid the latest upsurge in violence, there were tenuous signs that the Israeli army might soon pull back from six West Bank cities it entered or besieged after Zeevi was killed.

Israeli officials said Sharon would consult with senior Cabinet ministers today to discuss whether to withdraw from some of the Palestinian-ruled areas taken in recent days. Stepping up US pressure, Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a new appeal for a withdrawal, saying: “I think at this time it would be appropriate for the Israeli government to immediately withdraw from the (Palestinian-ruled) Area A, the villages that they have occupied.”

Israel and the Palestinians offered very different versions of what happened in the raid on Beit Rima. The Israeli military said all the dead were gunmen killed in fighting. Palestinian witnesses said all the dead were members of the Palestinian security forces guarding the town’s entrance and that they were killed in their sleep.

The army prevented reporters from entering the village and Palestinian ambulances and the ICRC were unable to enter. Witnesses said two helicopters firing heavy machineguns, more than five tanks, 15 armored personnel carriers, troops transporters, 15 jeeps and several armored bulldozers entered the village, near the city of Ramallah, during the night.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) swore that it would avenge those Palestinians killed yesterday.

Source: Arab News©

 

 

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