Israel's Military Intensifies
West Bank Operations
Special to World Middle East Newsline

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli military operations intensified Monday in the West Bank, with tanks and troops on the move in three villages as Israel continued its effort to uproot terror following a series of suicide bombings.
The operation came after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised Israelis he would tear out terrorists "by the roots."
"Citizens of Israel, the state of Israel is in a war -- a war against terrorism," Sharon said in a nationally televised address Sunday. (Full story)
Sharon's statements underscored the continuing violence in the region, with the latest incident occurring Monday when a car exploded at a busy Jerusalem intersection, killing the bomber and seriously injuring an Israeli policeman. (Full story)
The violence escalated last week, following a suicide bombing at an Israeli seaside hotel during Passover. On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces responded to that attack, targeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound.
Additional attacks followed. At least 42 Israelis have been killed and more than 100 wounded in terror attacks since the Passover bombing Wednesday night.
President Bush said the attacks are "simple terror" and called on Arafat to "denounce the terrorist activities that are taking place, the constant attacks." (Full story)
Arafat, who remained pinned down in his West Bank compound, has portrayed Israelis as the aggressors and called on "international forces" to end "this military escalation against our people." (Watch Arafat's comments, view a map of his compound.)
CNN's Michael Holmes was able to enter Arafat's compound Sunday when a group of about 40 Palestinian and international peace activists marched past Israeli troops and tanks and walked into the building. Holmes and other reporters went into the compound with the protesters. (Full story)
The Jerusalem bombing Monday raised the count to seven terror attacks -- six suicide bombings and one shooting -- in six days.
The Israeli military offensive in Ramallah continued Monday when an intense firefight erupted in the downtown area. Israeli tanks and a vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft gun fired on an office building, while Israeli helicopters circled the city. Palestinians responded with automatic weapons fire.
CNN personnel reported seeing one Palestinian and one Israeli soldier injured.
Elsewhere in Israel, said Palestinian sources, tanks entered Qalqilya in the north, Bethlehem and Al-Khader, a Palestinian town south of Bethlehem. An adviser to Sharon said that forces were "going after terrorists."
The Israeli government closed the West Bank and ordered international journalists to leave.
Other developments
* A suicide bomber set off a massive explosion Sunday that ripped through a crowded restaurant in the northern port city of Haifa, killing at least 14 people and wounding at least 33 others, Israeli authorities said. Izzedine al Qassam, the armed wing of the Hamas militant group, claimed responsibility. (Full story)
* At least four people were wounded in a suicide bombing Sunday near a medical clinic in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Efrat, settlers said.
Israeli troops exchange fire with Palestinians in downtown Ramallah.
* Eight Israeli soldiers were injured -- one severely -- while conducting house-to-house searches in Qalqilya. According to an Israel Defense Forces source, they were wounded when an explosive device went off in one of the houses being searched.
* Five Western peace activists and a Palestinian cameraman were wounded when they tried to block Israeli forces from entering a West Bank refugee camp near Beit Jala, Palestinian sources said Monday. Israeli authorities said they were checking the report.
* The U.N. Security Council was expected to hold a closed-door meeting Monday to discuss the Middle East situation. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to brief the council on his visit to last week's Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon.
* In Tulkarem, Palestinian militants shot and killed at least seven Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel, Palestinian security sources said. The militants opened fire after bursting into a building where Palestinian intelligence officers were holding suspected collaborators. At least seven were killed, and others may have been wounded.
* U.S. government officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and American consulates in East and West Jerusalem were planning to meet Monday to assess the security situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The meeting also will determine what measures should be taken to ensure the security of American personnel, their families and U.S. citizens in the region, a senior State Department official said. (Full story)

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