- JENIN, West Bank (Reuters)
- A Palestinian ambush killed 13 Israeli soldiers fighting in a West Bank
refugee camp Tuesday, dealing the army a blow that could complicate Secretary
of State Colin Powell's Middle East peace mission.
- Soon after the deaths were disclosed, Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, who has been under U.S. pressure to call off a 12-day-old
offensive against Palestinian cities in the West Bank, said the operation
- Israel announced the deadliest Palestinian attack on
its soldiers in 18 months of conflict hours after withdrawing its troops
from two West Bank cities following U.S. appeals.
- The Palestinian death toll from fierce battles in the
narrow alleyways of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank was
expected to be high. Witnesses said many corpses lay unretrieved in the
streets after days of fighting.
- President Bush responded to the withdrawal from Tulkarm
and Qalqilya by demanding Israeli troops leave all the other West Bank
cities they have occupied in the past 12 days.
- "The president believes all parties still have responsibilities,
(he is) still looking for results," a White House spokesman said,
adding Israeli should withdraw from Palestinian areas and "do so now."
- Powell, in Egypt ahead of a visit to Israel later this
week, said Sharon had told him by telephone he wanted to end the West Bank
sweep for Palestinian militants as soon as possible.
- But Israel launched a fresh incursion overnight in Dura
near the city of Hebron, and Palestinian sources said about 70 people had
been detained. Witnesses said troops had also entered the village of Kafr
Ra'i near Jenin and shelled a police station.
- BOOBY-TRAPPED BUILDING
- Israeli military commentators said Palestinians carried
out the ambush by blowing up a booby-trapped building on one group of soldiers,
after which gunmen opened fire on a second army unit that came to their
- "An army patrol by reserve soldiers was ambushed
during operations in the Jenin refugee camp. The ambush included the use
of explosive devices detonated against them and gunfire from nearby rooftops,"
the army said in a statement.
- "Thirteen soldiers were killed," it said, adding
that seven other soldiers were wounded, one of them critically.
- The toll was the heaviest single blow to the Israeli
army since the start of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- The deaths of so many soldiers on one day was a shock
to Israelis already in a somber mood as they marked Holocaust Remembrance
Day, honoring the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World
- "This is a difficult day. There was a very tough
battle against the terrorist organizations," Sharon said in remarks
broadcast on Israeli Channel One television shortly after news of the ambush
- "It is a battle we will continue to pursue according
to the government's decision, until we carry out the government's decision
which is to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in order to head to
a political process afterward which will hopefully lead to an agreement...for
peace," he said.
- The Jenin refugee camp has been the site of the fiercest
fighting in the Israeli offensive, which the government says is intended
to root out suicide bombers.
- Palestinian officials estimate more than 100 Palestinians
have been killed inside the camp over the last week. Before the latest
ambush, nine Israeli soldiers had been killed inside the camp and neighboring
- POWELL HOPES FOR FULL PULLOUT
- Powell said he hoped the withdrawal from Qalqilya and
Tulkarm was the start of a wider disengagement.
- "Let us hope that this is not a little bit of this
and a little bit of that, but the beginning of a pullback," Powell
said in Morocco at the start of his Middle East mission, before flying
to Egypt on the next stage of his tour.
- Powell said in Cairo he intended to meet Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat, who is penned up in the West Bank city of Ramallah
by Israeli forces.
- The 15-nation European Union said the pullout was "not
at all enough" and demanded an immediate cease-fire.
- Oil prices, which had soared Monday after Iraq announced
a one-month halt to oil supplies to protest at Israel's offensive, fell
on news of the partial withdrawal.
- Israeli forces gave no indication when they would quit
the other cities they attacked after a spate of suicide bombings.
- Even Tulkarm and Qalqilya were kept cut off from the
outside world after Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers left under
cover of darkness. The Israeli Defense Ministry said a blockade around
the two cities would be tightened.
- In Tulkarm, Israeli forces blew up the local Palestinian
intelligence headquarters before getting into their vehicles and leaving
under heavy covering fire, witnesses said.
- The Palestinians dismissed the limited withdrawal.
- "This is a new Israeli lie because, as they pulled
back, they tightened the siege on the two cities and entered new areas,"
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said.
- "If this lie will pass with the Americans, this
means their conspiracy is continuing because they know that what happened
is a maneuver," he told Reuters.
- At least 1,241 Palestinians and 422 Israelis have been
killed since the Palestinian uprising began after talks on a final peace
settlement stalled. The army says it has killed at least 200 Palestinians
during the current campaign.