Israeli jets retaliate for bat mitzvah massacre

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The Independent Online

Israeli warplanes destroyed Palestinian government headquarters in the West Bank town of Tulkarem today, in what the military said was a response to a Palestinian attack on a Jewish confirmation party in which six guests and the gunman were killed.

A Palestinian policeman was killed and about 20 injured in the Tulkarem attack, in which missiles from the aircraft reduced the large, two­story government complex to rubble, Palestinian security sources said.

Elsewhere, Israeli forces overlooking Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah were reinforced, as were a number of other Israeli positions in and around the West Bank town, and soldiers took over the home of Palestinian West Bank intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi.

Tirawi was not there at the time.

Palestinian political activist Mustafa Barghouti, who lives near Tirawi in Ramallah's Tira neighborhood, said the Israeli army had reoccupied about 50 percent of the town.

"This is paralyzing the city," he said. "The tanks are very close. They are not just closing the main roads in and out but they're inside the neighborhoods cutting access to schools and kindergartens."

An army spokesman confirmed that there was military activity in Ramallah but said a full statement would only be released when the operation was over.

The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah, said it carried out Thursday night's attack on a bat mitzvah – a confirmation party for a 12­year Jewish girl – in the Israeli city of Hadera, in revenge for the death of Raed Karmi, the militia's leader in the town of Tulkarem.

Karmi was killed in a bomb blast earlier this week that is widely believed to have been carried out by Israel.