11 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks

Army hits West Bank settlements, saying U.S. attacks justify tactics

September 13, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- The Israeli army staged its largest and deadliest incursion to date into Palestinian territory yesterday, entering the West Bank city of Jenin and two adjacent villages, where 11 Palestinians were reported killed.

Israeli officials said they were not planning to toughen the army's tactics but made clear that, in light of the devastating attacks in the United States, the government expects little criticism of its actions against hard-line Palestinian factions and suspected terrorists.

"Maybe the world has been uncomfortable with our tactics, and didn't like what we were doing too much," Ministry of Defense spokesman Shlomo Dror said in an interview. "Maybe they will be more comfortable with our tactics now."

Arab League accusations

Hanan Ashrawi, a spokeswoman for the Arab League, accused Israel of taking advantage of the world's attention being diverted to the United States. "Israel is playing in the dark while everyone is focused on the United States," she said at a news conference in Ramallah.

Fighting erupted Tuesday night in Jenin and the villages of Arrabeh and Tamoun and continued into yesterday morning. Armored bulldozers destroyed homes and police stations and as many as 10 tanks shelled neighborhoods for hours. Among the 11 dead were three Palestinian security officials whose vehicle convoy came under helicopter attack. Two members of the Islamic Jihad were killed when army tanks shelled their home. The Palestinians said that attack also killed an 11-year- old girl.

"We were fighting with everything we had," one of the Palestinian gunmen said yesterday.

The army defended its incursion, saying Jenin was a training ground for suicide bombers, including one who killed three people in Israel last week. "The city of Jenin serves as a source for terror activity and many terrorist operations originated there," the army said in a statement.

By last night, tanks had pulled back to Jenin's edge, but were still in Palestinian-controlled territory. The army gave no word when they might leave. Dror said the tanks had been poised outside the city for two days -- people in Jenin "knew it was coming," he said -- and the city was nearly emptied of civilians when the incursion occurred.

But heavy fighting erupted from all corners of the city, with Palestinians armed with automatic rifles firing at Israeli forces. No Israeli soldiers were injured.

Palestinian officials seemed to recognize that the attacks in the United States will make future violence against Israel difficult to defend. Leaders rushed to condemn the assault, with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat calling it a crime "against international humanity."

Yesterday, Palestinian children held a candlelight vigil in front of the American Consulate in East Jerusalem; it was in contrast to Tuesday night's televised scenes of gleeful Palestinians handing out candy in the same neighborhood.

The Israeli media said Palestinians' reactions remained suspect. "The Bush administration will set new standards for responses to terror," said Israeli's largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth. "The images of joyous Palestinians on the streets of Nablus will resonate for years in the U.S. and no Arab lobby will succeed in persuading the Americans that was a mob of riffraff."

U.S. `a ruthless country'

An analysis in the same issue predicted that the world's response to terror will have changed forever, which could help Israel in its fight against the Palestinians: "The United States, which presides as the supreme world judge on issues of use of force in the world, is a ruthless country when its own citizens and its own interests are at stake," the paper said. "It is no wonder that Yasser Arafat, who generally does not rush to react, was one of the first leaders to express his shock."

At Jerusalem's city hall, relatives of terror victims gathered under an American flag flying at half-staff. They had come to unveil the world's largest Rosh Hashanah card, signed by 40,000 Jewish children. But the event turned into a remembrance for lost loved ones with plenty of advice for Americans on how to cope.

"Every morning, you will wake up, but you will not live," said Yulia Tulzinsky, whose 19-year-old cousin died in February when a Palestinian bus driver plowed into a crowd of soldiers in Tel Aviv, killing eight people.

"You will not plan for the future," Tulzinsky said. "Holidays won't be holidays anymore. This is life after something like this. That's why America has to punish the people who did this. Sometimes George Bush says, `Don't hit them. Speak to them.' Now he knows that you cannot speak to them. They know only terror."

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