Al Jazeera, April 3-2002

Al-Jazeera TV website. 3 April 2002. 20:53 G.M.T.

A short while ago, columns of Israeli tanks invaded the city of Nablus in the north of the West Bank. The Israeli forces began their invasion under heavy covering fire against Palestinian National Security barriers at the entrance to the city. Columns of tanks, armored vehicles, and personnel carriers are entering Nablus from different directions amid violent Palestinian resistance in which armed citizens and member of the Preventive Security force are taking part.

The governor of Nablus, Mahmoud al-`Aloun, said that the Israeli army began its assault on the city in large numbers and from three directions: from Hawwara to the south, Bayt Iba to the north, and Tell to the west. He added that violent battles are underway between the armed Palestinians and the occupation forces around the village of Bayt Iba.

Security sources and Palestinian eyewitnesses say that two columns of tanks are moving toward the interior of Nablus, the largest city subject to the Palestine Authority in the West Bank. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent reports that the scope of the military operations had expanded to involve an attack from three directions.

The Situation in Jenin

Meanwhile Palestinian medical sources report that a Palestinian was killed during a confrontation with stones between Palestinian youths and the Israeli army that replied with bullets in the town of Ya`bad, near Jenin in the north of the West Bank. Ya`bad is located inside region “C” [according to the Oslo accords] and is therefore entirely under the control of Israeli security.

A correspondent for al-Jazeera in Palestine says that intense battles have resumed to the east of the Jenin refugee camp, where Palestinian fighters are resisting repeated Israeli attempts to storm in. The number of martyrs in Jenin camp has risen to seven after the deaths of three new martyrs in the ongoing battles at the camp.

A correspondent for al-Jazeera reports that there are violent battles between the Palestinians and the occupation forces. He says that a unified resistance leadership has been set up embracing the armed men and the men of the Preventive Security Service. The correspondent reports that the crew of an Israeli tank was overcome when Palestinians fired a rocket-propelled grenade, killing some of the Israelis. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent reports that the fierce resistance forced the occupation soldiers to flee from Jenin with tears in their eyes.

A correspondent for al-Jazeera says that the Palestinian resistance men in Jenin refugee camp killed an Israeli soldier, wounded three others, and damaged two tanks and a bulldozer during an attempt by occupation forces to storm the refugee camp. The Palestinian fighters also seized three M-16 automatic rifles after having surprised a detachment of the Israeli special forces as they attempted to penetrate the camp.

In Bethlehem

The number of Palestinian martyrs in Bethlehem has risen to four, among them a captain in the National Security. Crimes committed by the occupation forces and battles continue in the city. The occupation forces continue their reinforced siege of the Church of the Nativity and neighboring churches and have demanded that the fighters who took refuge in them surrender. In another development, the head of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem, Patriarch Michel Sabah has said that the armed Palestinians were given sanctuary in the Church of the Nativity after giving up their weapons.

About 200 Palestinian citizens and religious scholars have taken refuge in the church. The occupation forces have shelled some of the churches and mosques in the area, including the Mosque of Umar ibn al-Khattab, which has caught fire. Occupation troops are still preventing ambulances from getting to Manger Square where the bodies of some of the martyrs who bled to death can be seen. There are also families that are besieged in their homes together with the bodies of martyred family members after their homes came under the bombardment.

The Vatican today summoned the ambassadors of Israel and the United States to discuss with them the tragic situation in Bethlehem. A Vatican spokesman said that a representative of the Arab League was also summoned to discuss ways to “end the acts of terror.” The Vatican sharply criticized Israel for its “imposing unjust and humiliating conditions” on the Palestinians, as it also condemned “any acts of terrorism that target Israel.”

Al-Jazeera’s (female) correspondent in Bethlehem reports that the actual number of martyrs and wounded is unknown since ambulances are prevented from reaching them. She explained that the situation inside the Church of the Nativity is tragic since the besieged people inside lack food and medicine. She said that the occupation has surrounded three churches in the area, and explained that journalists are prohibited from moving to cover the situation while Israeli snipers have continued to fire from rooftops on any target that they observe. She said that the citizens cannot come out of their houses, noting that violent battles are continuing in the old city, in the environs of the city, and al-Duhaysha refugee camp, and as the Israelis continue to carry out operations to destroy houses and the Palestinian infrastructure.

The correspondent said that 250 military machines are located in the environs and inside Bethlehem region and the three refugee camps are under total siege. She indicated that electricity has been totally cut off from most parts of the city after communications with the outside world were cut.

In a statement to al-Jazeera the governor of Bethlehem, Colonel Muhammad al-Madani, said that bodies of martyrs fill the streets of the city. He explained that those besieged inside the Church of the Nativity could find no other refuge in which to escape death. He said that among the besieged people are civilians and women and children, and some men of the Palestinian National Security. He said that an ambulance belonging to the Red Crescent took the bodies of just three martyrs, among them the bodies of the woman Samiya Abed and her son, but after that the occupation went back to preventing ambulance crews from getting to the martyrs and wounded.

The Situation in Ramallah

In Ramallah, Palestinian medical sources report that since Israeli forces have cut off water from the city, the situation in the city threatens a medical and humanitarian disaster. The head of the Water Department of Ramallah said in a statement to al-Jazeera that the occupation forces prevent municipal officials from getting to the main water station that provides water to the city, so that they can repair it, after it was crippled in the shelling.

Earlier an agent of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Dr. Mundhir al-Sharif, said that Israeli tanks are parked at the main entrance to the city hospital and that the occupation forces demand that government crews in the hospital come out with their hands raised.

A (female) correspondent for al-Jazeera in Ramallah reports that the occupation forces are continuing their operations of search and destroy and maintain the curfew. She adds that arrests are still being made. Of the approximately 700 who have been detained so far, only 120 have been released. Those released are taken to check points and freed and from there they are to walk on foot facing another danger because the curfew is still in effect and they cannot get to their homes in Ramallah and al-Bireh. The occupation forces continue to fire indiscriminately in the streets in the direction of buildings in order to terrorize the citizens.

The fate of those taken by Israel from the headquarters of the Preventive Security service in the town of Bitouniya is still unknown. Israeli forces bombarded the headquarters intensely after it was stormed yesterday. Occupation troops then arrested about 200 Palestinians, most of whom had been prisoners of the Preventive Security service itself. Those arrested were taken in five buses to a destination that remains unknown until now. Israel said that it had received a number of prisoners that it had on its wanted list in accordance with an agreement that was signed with the aim of lifting the siege and ending the bombardment. But the commander of the Preventive Security Service in the West Bank, Jibril al-Rajjoub has denied that. An Israeli military spokesman has announced that the army completely controls the headquarters of the Preventive Security and is inspecting it in search of wanted persons.

More than 30 Israeli tanks stormed the town of Salfit this morning from two directions accompanied by intense gunfire. Israeli tanks shelled positions of the Palestinian Security service in the town that lies near Nablus. Israeli occupation forces have imposed a curfew on the town and are carrying out arrests and house-to-house searches.

In Tulkarm the occupation forces are maintaining the curfew as search and destroy operations and arrests continue. Earlier today occupation forces stormed Jamal Abd al-Nasir school, destroyed its walls and turned its classrooms into emplacements for snipers and its playground into a parking lot for tanks. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent reports that the occupation forces ordered males aged between 13 and 50 years to report to Jamal Abd al-Nasir school.

Protests inside the Green Line

In another development, the Israeli police fired tear gas at Arab and Israeli activists who tried to bring humanitarian assistance to the city of Ramallah, besieged by Israeli forces. The demonstrators, who numbered more than 2,000, carried signs and shouted slogans demanding that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdraw his forces from Ramallah. Members of the Israeli police knocked some of the demonstrators to the ground and beat others with clubs to keep them away from the barrier that commands the road leading to Ramallah.

A number of the demonstrators were wounded when they tried to break the blockade that has been imposed on Ramallah and cross into the city. The Head of the Municipality of Nazareth, Ramez al-Jarayisa, and two Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, Ahmad al-Tibi and Muhammad Baraka, were injured in the clashes with the Israeli forces.

The demonstrators, among whom were some foreigners, said that they will continue to plan protests and will organize a demonstration in front of the American embassy in Tel Aviv.

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