Intelligence alert sparks Israeli search operation in West Bank

Friday, January 31, 2003

JERUSALEM Israel's military has launched a search operation for Palestinian insurgents in the West Bank amid warnings of an imminent attack.

Israeli troops, backed by tanks and other forces, raided suspected insurgency strongholds in Hebron and Tulkarm. Several Palestinians were killed and about a dozen were captured.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli units and tanks demolished stalls in the city's downtown market as well as closed three police stations and television and radio stations. Palestinian sources said five members from the ruling Fatah movement and opposition Hamas were arrested.

Israeli military sources said the Hebron operation, termed "Hot Summer," was prompted by an intelligence alert that a major attack would be launched from the city. They said Palestinian insurgents were being aided and shielded by Palestinian Authority police.

The homes of two Palestinian insurgents were demolished during the operation in Hebron. Military sources said the Israeli operation would continue into the weekend.

In the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm, two Palestinians were killed in a shootout with an undercover Israeli unit. The two Palestinians were identified as leading members of Fatah's military wing.

In the Gaza Strip, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation to stop the launching of Kassam-class short-range missiles. The operation took place in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

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