Israeli Tanks Ring West
Bank City, Fighting Erupts
By Wael al-Ahmad

JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli tanks rolled into the outskirts of the Palestinian-ruled city of Jenin and encircled it on Tuesday in an operation which the army said was intended to prevent suicide bombers reaching Israel.
The advance prompted fighting in which hospital sources said two Palestinians were killed near the West Bank city, and truce talks planned for Tuesday night fell through amid arguments over a venue and Palestinian condemnation of the tank operation.
In separate violence, hospital sources said Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian traveling in a car in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli paramilitary border policemen guarding a base near the West Bank, police said.
Israel mounted the tank operation around Jenin, which it described as a ``terrorism nest,'' two days after a suicide bomber killed three Israelis in the northern town of Nahariya.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said at least six bombers had set out from the Jenin area since a Palestinian revolt began against Israeli occupation nearly a year ago.
The army, which blocked roads into the city, did not say how long it would keep Jenin sealed. Tanks stood on streets a few meters (yards) inside Jenin and on hills around it on Tuesday evening, hours after the operation began in the early hours.
Calls for resistance rang out through loudspeakers on minarets in Jenin as the tanks advanced under cover of darkness. Gunmen fired sporadically at the tanks and the army said it responded with automatic weapons and one tank shell.
Palestinian officials said the army fired at least six tank shells and hospital sources said two men, Ibrahim Fayed and Ihab al-Masri, were killed at a refugee camp near Jenin.
Israel has made many brief raids into Palestinian territory. Most lasted several hours but troops stayed two days in Beit Jala near Jerusalem last month to try to stop gunmen shooting.
Hopes that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres would meet on Tuesday faded as they failed to agree on a venue for talks on implementing a truce brokered by Washington in June but which never took hold.
Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Shaath told reporters in Damascus the meeting would not go ahead until after Arafat visited Syria on Wednesday. ''Talk about the Arafat-Peres meeting is postponed until the visit is completed,'' Shaath said. ``There has been no agreement so far on either a venue or a time for the meeting.''
Israel favors a meeting at the Erez border crossing with Gaza, which it regards as neutral ground. The Palestinians say it should take place in Egypt.
``They (Israel) don't want to go to Egypt. It's a shame for us to bow to Israeli attempts to bypass the role of our brother Egypt,'' Arafat said.
Even if Arafat and Peres do hold the first of at least three planned meetings, hopes are slim of a breakthrough to end 11 months of bloodshed that has killed more than 700 people.
Some 562 Palestinians and 165 Israelis have been killed since the uprising erupted last year after peace talks stalled.


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