Israel bombs Voice of Palestine

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Israeli troops today seized the official Palestinian television and radio broadcasting building and then set off a controlled explosion setting the complex on fire.

Israeli troops today seized the official Palestinian television and radio broadcasting building and then set off a controlled explosion setting the complex on fire.

But only hours after the Israeli operation in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Palestinian broadcasting services managed to return to the airwaves. The Voice of Palestine began broadcasting from a small, private Palestinian radio station in Ramallah, while Palestine television used alternative facilities in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli action came a day after tanks surrounded Yasser Arafat at his headquarters in another part of Ramallah, with some moving to within a few meters (yards) of the gate of the compound.

The moves are part of the Israeli response to a Thursday night attack by a Palestinian gunman who killed six people and wounded dozens at a bat mitzvah celebration.

Before dawn today, about a dozen Israeli tanks surrounded the hilltop broadcasting building, and Israeli soldiers entered the four-story complex. The Palestinians had evacuated the building before the soldiers arrived and there were no confrontations, witnesses said.

A couple hours later, a huge blast went off inside the building. Flames engulfed the building's top floor and quickly spread to lower floors. By the time the fire was extinguished, the entire building was blackened. No one was allowed inside for fear that the building could collapse.

The Israeli army said in a statement that it had confiscated equipment before blowing up the building.

"This is a criminal action," said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the Palestinian cabinet secretary. He called the demolition part of a larger Israeli effort to destroy the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has frequently accused the Palestinian Authority of using its television and radio facilities to broadcast inflammatory reports and comments that it says fuel the Middl East conflict.

Palestinian Broadcasting says its material reflects the mood among Palestinians.

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