Israel strikes West Bank targets
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian military sources say Israeli helicopters fired on targets in two West Bank towns on Saturday.
No injuries have been reported following an attack on the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's elite bodyguard in Jenin, but the sources said 25 people were injured in an attack on the Palestinian national guard building in Tulkarem.
The air strikes came a day after a suicide bombing killed five Israelis as well as the bomber and left 100 wounded at a shopping mall in Netanya.
The attacks began at around midday local time (0900 GMT), the sources said.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said in a statement that "the Israeli Air Force attacked two terrorist targets in the area of Judea and Samaria.
"The targets attacked were the HQ of Palestinian Security Forces, one in Tulkarem and one in Jenin."
He said "the IDF will continue its fight against Palestinian terror in anyway and at anytime it sees fit."
The latest attacks came as world leaders stepped up their calls for a ceasefire in the Middle East after Friday saw one of the worst days of bloodshed in the region since Israeli-Palestinian violence escalated eight months ago.
Friday's bloodshed claimed the lives of at least 18 people and injured 160, while a Palestinian policeman was killed in an exchange of gunfire near Jenin on Saturday morning.
The Israeli military said in a statement that the policeman was in an area under Israeli Security control, and that he should not have been armed in the area.
It said Israeli Defense Forces had shot towards two policemen near a car, and that a third policeman had opened fire towards Israeli soldiers, who had then thrown a grenade.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the only solution to the Mideast crisis lay on the negotiating table, while U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell said there must be a complete cessation of violence.
For the first time since the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel on Friday used fighter jets to attack at least five targets in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza, killing at least 11 people and injuring about 60.
The attacks came after a Hamas suicide bomber set off a blast outside a shopping mall in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, killing five people as well as himself. About 100 people were injured.
In another incident Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed in an ambush while driving near Palestinian-controlled Ramallah.
Early Saturday, the Israeli Army located and detonated a suspicious device near an open-road mall in Jerusalem, an army source said. No-one was injured in the controlled explosion.
Annan called the Israeli response to the Netanya bombing "excessive and misdirected."
"Its effect will inevitably be to increase bitterness even further on the Palestinian side," Annan said in a statement.
In Washington, Powell spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon late Friday. Sources said Powell came away from the call frustrated, and attempts to arrange a meeting between Powell and Arafat are now on hold.
"Our message is this -- we need to see some different behavior," said a senior U.S. official. "Otherwise, sitting down with either side is a waste of time."
Earlier, at a joint appearance with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Powell said he was in touch with Annan and European Union leaders to discuss possible ways of curbing tensions.
"So far, I find that we are stuck at point No. 1. Unless there is an unconditional cessation, reduction, elimination of violence, it is hard to get to step two," he said.
Israelis blame on Palestinian Authority
Israeli officials blamed the Palestinian Authority for the Netanya bombing and said their retaliatory attacks were aimed at Palestinian "terror targets."
Israeli Foreign MinisterShimon Peres said Palestinians were "endangering every attempt to build a block of peace again."
"This reduces very much the necessary trust for going back and negotiating," he said.
Israeli officials said the Palestinian Authority bears responsibility for terrorist attacks because it has released Hamas militants from jail. They also accuse some Palestinian security officials of direct involvement in the violence.
While Israelis aimed their retaliatory strikes at the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus, the Authority itself condemned the Hamas bombing and the killing of "innocent civilians." But news of the suicide attack was cheered at a Hamas rally in Ramallah.
In a broadcast interview, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahaar said Hamas is intent on "convincing the Israeli society that Sharon will not bring them peace." He said as long as Israel continues what he called the occupation of Palestinian lands, "no one in Israel, no one in Palestine will be safe."
Hamas has vowed to carry out a campaign of 10 suicide bombings against Israeli targets. Friday's attack was the seventh.
In Washington, President Bush said the violence was counterproductive in trying to reach a peace agreement between the two sides.
"We must break the cycle of violence in order to begin meaningful discussions about any kind of political settlement," the U.S. leader said. "My administration will continue to work with the parties involved, reminding folks that violence will not lead to peace."
Both the Israelis and Palestinians are considering a series of recommendations issued by a U.S.-sponsored fact-finding commission, headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
In an interview with CNN's "Diplomatic License" program, to be aired Sunday, Mitchell reiterated his call for an "immediate and unconditional cessation of violence" and resumption of security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
"They had that cooperation during the several years of the Oslo [peace] process," he said. "Both sides agree it worked well. Both sides would like to resume it. They can't do it now under the existing circumstances."
Mitchell said the commission is proposing a series of steps to rebuild confidence, including a cooling-off period without violence, followed by negotiations.
|Back to the top|