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11 die in new Mideast violence

©New York Times

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

JERUSALEM -- In a surge of violence punctuated by a thrust into a West Bank town by Israeli tanks, 10 Palestinians, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed by Israeli army fire on Wednesday, and an Israeli settler was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen.

Palestinian officials accused the Israelis of stepping up military actions while international attention was focused on the terrorist attacks Tuesday in New York and Washington.

"The Israelis are exploiting the world's preoccupation with events in the U.S. to carry on with their crimes against the Palestinian people," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

Israeli officials said they were carrying out anti-terrorist operations to prevent precisely the sort of suicide attacks that had hit the United States.

"This has to do with terrorist suicide bombers similar to those that attacked the World Trade Center," said Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "We're just acting in self-defense, and it would have been done regardless of whether or not the twin towers attack had happened."

Early Wednesday, Israeli troops entered the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin and two neighboring villages, demolishing part of a police headquarters and killing nine Palestinians in clashes before withdrawing. Dozens more were injured.

Residents of Jenin said Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled in at 1:30 a.m., encountering stiff resistance from gunmen.

The Israelis razed half of the local Palestinian police center, including the office of the police commander and a security services wing, residents said. Three Palestinians were killed.

An Israeli army statement said the Jenin police headquarters was "a center of terrorist activity" from which bombers had been sent on missions to attack Israel.

Israeli security officials say they have traced several recent suicide attacks to Jenin, including a bombing last Sunday at a train station in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya in which three Israelis died.

Israeli forces also entered the villages of Tamoun and Arrabe in what the army said was a search-and-arrest mission to seize Palestinians suspected of anti-Israeli violence.

In Arrabe the Israelis shelled a house, killing two members of the militant Islamic Holy War group along with the 9-year-old sister of one of the men, the Palestinians said.

Israeli security officials said that the two men had been involved in a series of attacks and that one of the men had recruited suicide bombers.

Israeli troops also killed three Palestinian security officers in the area, including the chief of a local security services branch, the Palestinians said.

Near the town of Kalkilya on the West Bank's border with Israel, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli car, killing a settler. The Palestinians have killed more than two-dozen Jewish settlers in road shootings since the start of the Palestinian uprising nearly a year ago.

In the Gaza Strip, soldiers at a checkpoint near Israeli settlements killed a Palestinian when they fired on a taxi.

An army spokeswoman said the driver of the vehicle had ignored orders to halt in order to allow a settlers' car to pass, and had come dangerously close to the Israeli car. Soldiers in the area have been on alert for car bombs, the spokeswoman said.

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