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Israel calls up reserve soldiers

Friday, June 21, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Israel called up reserve soldiers Thursday and detained many Palestinian men and youths for questioning after troops entered Palestinian towns in a widening military response to a wave of suicide attacks.

After nightfall, suspected Palestinian infiltrators took hostages in a house in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near the city of Nablus, killing four Israelis and wounding at eight others, settlers and rescue workers said.

The casualties were from one family except for an Israeli soldier, who was wounded when the military stormed the house. One of the infiltrators was also killed and the other fled out a window, the settlers and rescuers said.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took responsibility for the attack in a call to The Associated Press.

Deployed to West Bank

The Israeli government's decision to seize some Palestinian territories was a direct response to repeated suicide attacks. Two bombings in Jerusalem killed 26 Israelis on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Israeli forces set up tents in some Palestinian areas, indicating a plan to stay for at least a few days, but were not building permanent infrastructure like water pipes or electricity lines.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said one reserve unit, or about 1,200 troops, were called up to bolster Israel's defenses.

"This call-up is meant to give backup to the standing army so it can face a new strategic situation in the (Palestinian) territories," he told Israel TV.

Military sources said their scheduled reserve duty had been brought forward with special orders, and they would be deployed along the line between the West Bank and Israel. In March, ahead of Israel's largest-scale military operation in a generation, Israel called up about 20,000 reserve troops.

The call-up came as the army rounded up Palestinians in Jenin, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem and Beitunia, a suburb of Ramallah. Israeli forces tightly encircled Tulkarem, as Israel Radio broadcast alerts about suicide bombers about to attack Israel.

Since taking control of the Jenin refugee camp late Tuesday, Israeli soldiers have been going from house to house, guided by maps, detaining about 2,500 men and boys, hauling them away in buses for questioning, Palestinians said. About 1,000 were released Thursday. The Israeli military would say only that soldiers detained Tarek Izzedine, 28, a local leader of the Islamic Jihad group, which has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks..

After a two-day sweep, Israeli forces pulled out of Qalqiliya, which is at Israel's narrowest point, where the country is just nine miles across.


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