Israeli military scours Tulkarm refugee camp

Palestinian men, boys questioned and trucked away

7 die in territories


JERUSALEM - In a series of military strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians and blocked more than 1,000 Palestinian men and boys from returning home for a second day as they scoured a refugee camp for wanted men.

Sending up clouds of dust on the outskirts of east Jerusalem, Israeli authorities used jackhammers and backhoes to crush more than a dozen Palestinian homes and other buildings that they said lacked permits.

Palestinians said the permits were prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain.

In the refugee camp, in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, the army said that on Wednesday it summoned all males between the ages of 15 and 45 to appear in the camp's center, where they were detained and interrogated.

Those deemed innocent were placed on trucks and sent to another camp, where they were released and instructed not to return home for three days, the army said.

The action came after a suicide bomber from a village near Tulkarm struck the Israeli town of Netanya on Sunday, killing himself and wounding three dozen others.

The army said the action in the refugee camp would help it separate wanted men from the innocent. "If they didn't come forward, they probably have something to hide," Maj. Sharon Feingold, an army spokeswoman, said yesterday.

Palestinians in Tulkarm said yesterday that as many as 3,000 men and boys as young as 13 were rounded up. They said soldiers with loudspeakers threatened punishment if they did not appear at the collection point, a girls' school.

Ramzi Abu A'tiyeh, 20, said he was interrogated, loaded onto a truck with about 50 others and dropped near the other camp, Nur Shams.

"They dropped us there and told us not to return for three days," he said. "We didn't know what we were going to do."

He said strangers in Nur Shams gave him a place to sleep. He and other Palestinians said roads back to Tulkarm were blocked by barbed wire or soldiers.

The army said that it had made no provisions for those without places to stay and that it had arrested 13 Palestinians in the camp.

The Tulkarm operation, which was still under way last night, was one of several unfolding throughout a violent day in the occupied territories.

At the southern edge of the Gaza Strip before dawn, Israeli tanks and bulldozers supported by helicopters raided the Rafah refugee camp in what the army described as an effort to find and destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels.

The army said its forces came under attack and shot back. Palestinians in Rafah said four men were killed but only one was armed.

Four Israeli soldiers were wounded when a bomb burst beneath a tank. The forces did not find any tunnels, but they demolished at least four houses.

Later in the day and farther north, Israeli soldiers opened fire on two Palestinians the army said had entered an off-limits area and appeared to be planting something that might have been an explosive. Palestinian authorities said the men were farmers picking vegetables.

The army said soldiers called at the men to halt, then shot in the air. When the men failed to stop, the soldiers shot them.

No explosives were found. The army said the men were wounded but alive when they were turned over to a Palestinian ambulance, but a doctor at Shifa hospital in Gaza City later said one of them had died. He identified the man as Eyad Elyan, 26.

In the West Bank city of Qalqiliya, soldiers on an overnight search late Wednesday for a man planning a suicide bombing shot and killed a 14-year-old boy who opened his door to watch them, Palestinians said. The army said the boy tried to run away and ignored calls to stop and warning shots before soldiers fired at him.

The army said that in the past 24 hours it had stopped three would-be suicide bombers, including the one in Qalqiliya.

In Nablus, in the West Bank, soldiers shot and killed Khaled Rayyan, 28, a local leader of the militant group Hamas. His wife, Salam, told the Associated Press that he was killed when he used a pistol to attack the troops who were pursuing him.

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