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Israel Attacks Hebron Headquarters


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Israel Attacks Hebron Headquarters

Thu Jun 27,11:39 PM ET

By SUSAN SEVAREID, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli helicopters fired missiles Thursday at wanted men holed up in a fortress-like Palestinian Authority compound in the West Bank city of Hebron, as Palestinian officials fumed at a string of threats and condemnations from President Bush

Palestinians called Bush's threat to deny future aid and his unwillingness to rule out military action against Yasser Arafat rash and dangerous. Holding up funds will jeopardize the reforms Bush demands, they said.

"Delaying aid from the international community would also delay the reforms that we already have started within most of our organizations and sectors, in particular in education and the health system," West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub said.

In addition, lumping Arafat with the likes of the Afghan leadership that protected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is "dangerous," Rajoub said. "The Palestinian Authority is not the Taliban movement."

Smoke rose Thursday from the back of the Palestinian Authority complex in Hebron after the missile strike. Israeli forces had been targeting the building with machine-gun fire for three days and warned they would overrun it if those inside refused to come out.

Israel also admitted for the second time in a week its forces "acted improperly" in firing on Palestinians violating a curfew. Three children in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya were wounded, including a 9-year-old in critical condition with brain damage.

Palestinian witnesses and security officials said tanks fired after a curfew break arranged with Israeli authorities to allow high school students to take final exams. Apparently after seeing the students on the streets, others headed out to the market, Palestinians said.

Soldiers opened fire on the children, the military said. Civil administration spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner confirmed the intention was to lift the curfew for students.

On June 21, the army said its forces erred in killing four Palestinians, including three children, after a rumor spread the curfew had been briefly lifted.

In Jerusalem, police said Thursday that two Jewish settlers, arrested on suspicion of involvement in a rampage in a West Bank village that left a Palestinian dead, have been released without being charged.

A number of settlers went through the Palestinian village of Hawara on June 21, firing rifles randomly, witnesses said, after the funerals of five Israelis killed by a Palestinian infiltrator at the settlement of Itamar a day before.

Meanwhile, Palestinians fumed over Bush's latest remarks.

Bush's plan for bringing peace to the region, laid out Monday, centered on a call for new Palestinian leaders "not compromised by terror." Since then, Bush has also threatened to deny U.S. aid to the Palestinians and refused to rule out military action against Arafat.

Such talk left Arafat's aides angrily accusing Bush of being rash, bending to Israeli interests and worsening the situation.

"It's enough for the Palestinians to face an (Israeli) army armed with all the American weapons," said Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "If President Bush meant to do what he said, this will be a rash act that will cause a lot of harm in the region."

Rajoub said rebuilding security institutions left near ruin after Israel's six-week military campaign, which ended in May, will cost $20 million alone. "When we talk about the Palestinian security apparatus, we are talking about a completely destroyed security system that needs equipment, training and facilities," he said.

The Palestinians outlined sweeping changes for financial, judicial and security branches this week following calls from Bush, Palestinians, Israelis and the international community for an overhaul of the Palestinian Authority.

On Thursday, Arafat signed the necessary orders for combining and reducing the number of security branches and placing them under Interior Ministry control.

Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikay played down Bush's refusal to rule out the use of U.S. military force.

"I don't think anyone is seriously talking about a military option," Vatikay said. "I think that he (Bush) understands very well that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is touched with terror from head to toe."

In Hebron, Israeli military officials have said 150 people inside the Palestinian government compound have surrendered, including at least 20 top fugitives, during short breaks in the Israeli siege of the building. About 40 people, including at least 15 wanted men, remained inside Thursday, the officials said.

Hebron is one of seven main West Bank population centers to come under the tight grip of the Israeli military after two suicide bombings last week in Jerusalem killed 26 Israelis. At least 700,000 Palestinians are confined to their homes while Israeli forces search for weapons and carry out arrest sweeps.

"We know that a few wanted persons are inside and we intend to apprehend them," army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey told Israel Army Radio. "We prefer to do it without a battle, but if it proves necessary, there will be one."

Israel is considering expelling the families of West Bank suicide bombers to the Gaza Strip to discourage others from carrying out such attacks, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

Since Palestinian-Israeli violence erupted in September 2000, 251 Israelis have been killed in 71 suicide bomb attacks. In the past, the Israeli army has bulldozed the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers.

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this is what amuses me. anytime they are interviewed, the palestinian leadership always manages to slip in a phrase "israel uses american made weapons". like its the biggest secret or deal in the world

i could slip in a few words too, "Russian, French, British, South African made weapons that Egypt, Syria, Jordan, SArabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Lybia use"

oh that, and a 700 shekel belt bomb.

weapons are weapons, no matter who makes them.

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