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After back-to-back Palestinian attacks, Israeli soldiers raid W

Saturday, May 25, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Israeli soldiers on Friday raided a West Bank refugee camp -- a stronghold of Palestinian militants -- following back-to-back attacks on Israel's largest fuel depot, a pedestrian mall and a nightclub.

As fighting persisted, an adviser to Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian leader will hold general elections this winter, but only if Israeli troops pull back to positions they held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.

Israeli forces, however, looked poised to stay in the West Bank.

Israel TV's Channel Two reported that the army has been given a green light to launch a new military campaign, including raids into Palestinian cities that could last for several days. Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said he was not aware of government approval for a new offensive.

In the Tulkarem refugee camp in the northern West Bank, Palestinian militiamen ambushed Israeli soldiers riding atop an armored personnel carrier at the camp's entrance, wounding two soldiers. In the hail of gunfire, one of the soldiers fell from the vehicle, said a Palestinian gunman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Israeli army said one soldier was killed.

Tank gunners fired shells and machine guns, and four Palestinians were wounded, including a woman and a 4-year-old child, Palestinian doctors said.

The Israeli military confirmed the exchange of fire.

Curfew imposed

Israeli troops imposed a curfew in Tulkarem. Israeli soldiers have been carrying out daily arrest raids in Palestinian areas following a recent military offensive aimed at dismantling militant groups that have launched scores of bombing and shooting attacks against Israelis.

A brief lull in attacks ended this week.

In a third attack in 28 hours, a Palestinian militant drove a bomb-laden car at high speed toward a Tel Aviv night club early Friday, but was shot and killed by a security guard. The assailant tried to blow up the Studio 49 club in Tel Aviv, where about 200 people were partying at about 1 a.m.

Security guard Eli Federman said he saw the car turn sharply and race toward the club. He pushed clubgoers inside and opened fire, hitting the attacker, who fell from the car, which burst into flames.

"Then I fired the rest of the bullets into his head," killing him, Federman said.

The car had been carrying pipe bombs.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, identified the driver as Amer Shkokani of the West Bank town of El Bireh.

A suicide bombing Wednesday in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion was also carried out by the Al Aqsa militia. Two Israelis and the bomber were killed.


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