Israeli forces storm Palestinian HQ in Hebron

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The Independent Online

Israeli soldiers today stormed the fortress-like Palestinian headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron, occupying the seventh of eight main West Bank centers. Palestinian security officials said two policemen were killed.

Israeli soldiers today stormed the fortress-like Palestinian headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron, occupying the seventh of eight main West Bank centers. Palestinian security officials said two policemen were killed.

Israeli troops surrounded the hilltop compound, exchanging fire with police, and then soldiers entered the building and searched from room to room, Palestinians said, while forces outside used loudspeakers to demand that all the Palestinians inside surrender with their hands raised.

Security officials said that the Palestinian security chief, Nizam Jaabri, and about 20 others had turned themselves in. Palestinians said some are suspected of killing five people thought to be collaborators with Israeli intelligence.

The Israeli military said soldiers entered Hebron to operate against the "terrorist infrastructure" there. A military statement said a "large number" of suspects had been arrested. Also, soldiers discovered an explosives laboratory.

Soldiers declared a curfew in the city, confining more than 100,000 Palestinians to their homes, residents said.

The large, old building served the British army when they controlled the area until 1948. Then the Jordanian army took over, and when Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli army had its headquarters there.

When Israel turned most of Hebron over to the Palestinians in 1997, the Palestinians converted the structure into an office for the regional governor and security forces.

The 1997 accord left Israel in control of about 20 per cent of the city, guarding three enclaves where Jewish settlers live in the center of Hebron.

Also, soldiers arrested 11 Palestinians in the village of Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, the military said today.

Israeli forces hold seven West Bank Palestinian towns in a tight grip, following a decision to move into Palestinian areas in retaliation for bomb attacks. At least 700,000 Palestinians were confined to their homes by army curfews, and Israeli tanks encircled Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters compound in Ramallah. Only Jericho, isolated in the Jordan Valley, was free of Israeli troops.

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