Israel fires missiles into Jenin refugee camp
Raids carried out at journalists' offices in Ramallah
JENIN, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli forces launched a missile strike Monday on a Palestinian refugee camp in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, home to around 15,000 people.
Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least 19 missiles into the camp, which covers less than a square mile, Palestinian sources said.
Meanwhile in Bethlehem, an Israeli sniper shot dead a Palestinian policeman as he tried to extinguish a fire in the parish of the Church of the Nativity, according to the Rev. Amgad Sabbara, a priest inside the compound. The blaze did not damage the church, built over the spot regarded to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
Israel said the Palestinians are armed, but Sabbara and another religious aid worker inside the church said they are seeking refuge from the Israeli military operation in Bethlehem.
Israeli security sources said it opened fire so that two soldiers, wounded by hand grenades and shots fired from the church, could be safely evacuated.
More than 200 Palestinians and about 60 religious workers have been holed up in the church since March 29.
Fierce fighting also was reported in Nablus, the largest town on the West Bank. Israel Defense Forces said close to 100 Palestinian gunmen had laid down their arms and surrendered in the casbah, the heart of Nablus.
The IDF said it was continuing its sweep and had uncovered a number of weapons caches and explosives laboratories.
In Ramallah, Israeli forces raided the offices of several news organizations and one U.S. aid organization Monday, using gunfire and explosives to enter the buildings, according to eyewitnesses.
No one was injured, and Israeli military officials said the searches were part of their broader effort to find terrorists.
Israeli soldiers fired rounds of ammunition as they came up the stairs into the offices at around 11:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EDT), according to CNN producer Sausan Ghosheh, who was in the building at the time. The soldiers said they had called out to warn the employees by megaphone, but Ghosheh said no one heard it.
About 25 people were taken out one by one, escorted by an armed Israeli soldier, into a room where they were instructed to sit on the floor with their hands in the air. The Israelis confiscated all mobile phones, Ghosheh said.
A few minutes later, they returned and allowed everyone to leave. The phones were returned, and nothing was confiscated. They told the journalists to make sure to inform Israeli authorities before reporting a story.
The army then searched the downstairs offices of Abu Dhabi and Nile TV, where the employees were mostly Palestinian. Ghosheh said the Israeli forces shot open the door to one office and ransacked the room.
The employees, according to Ghosheh, said they were forced onto their knees with their hands over their heads, while the Israelis searched their offices.
About an hour earlier, Israel forces "went on a rampage" at the offices of the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC), Arab News Network (ANN) and the adjacent YMCA offices, according to MBC Bureau Chief Nabil Khatib.
Khatib said the Israeli forces entered their offices by exploding the doors open with no warning and ruined the building's elevator. They also damaged four cars, including two television news vehicles, Khatib said.
The East Jerusalem YMCA released a statement Monday, saying the Israeli army "blew up and destroyed the contents of the offices ... the lift, the cars, the equipment and machines that are used for training."
At the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli forces used loudspeakers to call on residents to evacuate, saying they were preparing to strike the camp.
Some residents refused to leave and were evacuated by force, but a majority were still in the camp when the strike began, according to residents who spoke to CNN.
There was no immediate word on casualties. However, CNN's Rula Amin reported from outside Jenin that Palestinians said Israel Defense Forces were punching through walls and conducting house-to-house searches.
Palestinian sources said men who were evacuated were separated from the women and children and removed to an unknown place.
Israeli military sources had no comment on the missile strike.
Israeli searches in the camp turned up explosives labs, Qassam rockets, an unexploded car bomb and mortar shells, according to the IDF.
Fighting in Jenin began late last week, but casualty numbers have been difficult to verify because journalists and ambulances have been kept out of the camp.
The latest attack comes after Israeli officials said they expected to complete their offensive in Jenin and Nablus within days under heavy U.S. and international pressure for a withdrawal.
Israeli troops have taken control of six Palestinian towns in the West Bank since the offensive began 11 days ago.
The IDF says 12 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 143 have been wounded in the campaign. Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz said Sunday about 200 Palestinians have died and 1,500 have been wounded.
Hassan Abdel Rahman, the Palestinian representative to the United States, put the Palestinian death toll at 250 and said many were women and children.
President Bush on Saturday called for an Israeli pullout "without delay" and delivered the message personally in a phone call to Sharon.
In response, Sharon issued a statement that said Israel was conscious of the U.S. desire for it to wrap up the offensive "as expeditiously as possible." However, in a speech Monday to the Israeli parliament, the prime minister said the operation would continue until the terrorist infrastructure was destroyed, giving no timetable for withdrawal.
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