- BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters)
- Israel invaded Bethlehem and other West Bank towns Tuesday as Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a
"one-way ticket" out of his besieged headquarters.
- Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat immediately dismissed
the offer, saying Arafat, who has sworn to "die a martyr" rather
than bow to Israel, would never accept exile from his homeland.
- "Arafat said there is not a single Palestinian who
will accept going into exile under any circumstances," he said.
- He told Reuters that Sharon's intention was to kill
who is holed up in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah,
despite Israel's repeated assurances to the contrary.
- Israel sent tanks to Ramallah Friday in what it said
was a bid to halt a wave of suicide attacks. Palestinians say the aim of
Israel's widening military campaign is to block their goal of an
state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- In Bethlehem, outgunned Palestinians fought desperately
to keep Israeli troops out of Manger Square after tanks and armored
pushed into the biblical town near Jerusalem overnight.
- Witnesses said helicopter gunships fired into the square,
near the Church of Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, after
a Palestinian fighter damaged a tank with a grenade.
- A 65-year-old Italian priest, Jacques Amateis, was
killed during the fighting. The Roman Catholic Missionary Service News
Agency said he had died in Saint Mary's convent.
- Witnesses said an 80-year-old Palestinian man was shot
dead outside his house. A woman and her son were critically wounded.
- Majdi Benoura, 30, a Palestinian cameraman working for
Qatar's al-Jazeera station, was wounded in the neck as he was filming from
the roof of the city's Star Hotel, colleagues said.
- "ONE-WAY TICKET"
- Sharon said he had told world leaders worried about
plight that they could pluck him from Ramallah by helicopter.
- "First of all, I would have to first bring it to
the cabinet -- it should be approved. Second, he could not take anyone
with him because there are wanted (people) and murderers around him
Sharon told reporters at a West Bank army base.
- "And the third thing is it has got to be one-way
ticket. He would not be able to return," he said in televised
- Under pressure from Arab and European leaders to take
the lead in defusing the conflict, President Bush defended his approach
and urged Arafat to condemn suicide bombings.
- The U.N. Security Council Saturday called on Israel to
leave Ramallah and other West Bank towns, but the White House appears to
back Israel's line that a cease-fire must come first.
- Israel has refused to let envoys from the United Nations,
United States, Russia and the European Union visit Arafat in Ramallah,
a spokesman for EU envoy Miguel Moratinos said.
- "Yesterday we requested a visit to Ramallah. Mr.
Zinni put in a request on behalf of the quartet," the spokesman said,
referring to the U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni. "It was
- Oil prices hit a six-month high on fears that unrest
could spread in the Middle East, which holds two-thirds of world oil
though no support emerged for Iraq's proposal to use an oil embargo to
put pressure on Israel's supporters.
- Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships blitzed the
of a Palestinian security chief, Jibril al-Rajoub, near Ramallah, setting
buildings ablaze and causing an unknown number of casualties among the
400 people said to be inside.
- Rajoub, who was evacuated earlier, denied there were
any militants wanted by Israel sheltering in the compound.
- In Ramallah, the head of medical services in the West
Bank said three civilians had been killed in the city Tuesday.
- Moussa Abu Hmaid said an Israeli sniper had shot dead
a 56-year-old woman outside Ramallah hospital. Medical workers had found
the bodies of two other Palestinians, a handicapped man named Ayoub
40, and Mohammed Mahroum, 32.
- CURFEW IN TULKARM
- Troops thrust into the northern city of Tulkarm and
villages of Anabta and Kafr al-Labad. In Tulkarm, soldiers ordered
residents to stay indoors or be shot. "A curfew is imposed. Any
will be fired at," they shouted, witnesses said.
- A Palestinian official said troops had shot dead a
man aged 42 near a checkpoint outside Bala'a, north of Tulkarm.
- Israel army radio said two Palestinians had been found
dead in a car near Tulkarm, with a note from a group calling itself
Tears of the Widows and Children." The radio said police believed
a Jewish underground group was behind the killings.
- Israel's military offensive began Friday when it sent
tanks to besiege Arafat's headquarters after a suicide bombing killed 22
people during a religious Passover feast Wednesday.
- But the campaign has so far failed to halt suicide
of which there have been six in as many days.
- Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told army radio
the West Bank incursions might last for weeks. "We have no intention
of staying there a protracted time -- three to four weeks."
- Police were on high alert in Jerusalem after a bomber
blew himself up at a checkpoint Monday, killing a policeman.
- Army radio said a gunman was killed while trying to
an Israeli cooperative farm just north of the West Bank.
- At least 1,138 Palestinians and 400 Israelis have been
killed since the Palestinian revolt began in September 2000.
- Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas fired a Katyusha
rocket into Israel from Lebanon early Tuesday, Israeli security sources
said. It was the first such strike since Israel's army withdrew from
in May 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
- "The situation in Lebanon we view gravely and I
am sure that we will respond suitably," Sharon told army radio.