- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

JERUSALEM Palestinians yesterday killed 11 men suspected of collaborating with Israel and dragged their bodies through the streets as Israeli troops fought running battles with gunmen in Ramallah and Israeli tanks moved on other cities in the West Bank.
Israeli tanks rolled into Qalqilya and the Deheishe refugee camp, the latest Palestinian areas to be overrun since the offensive that Israel is calling Operation Defensive Shield began Friday.
A bomb set off during house-to-house searches in Qalqilya wounded eight soldiers.
The Israeli army, having completed the mobilization of 20,000 reservists in just three days, amassed other forces outside Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Nablus in the West Bank.
Early today, witnesses said Israelis attacked the headquarters of Palestinian Preventive Security outside Ramallah, firing tank shells and machine guns. Palestinian officials said that Israeli soldiers used 60 Palestinian civilians as human shields in front of the tanks before the assault, but an Israeli army spokesman "categorically denied" the charge.
Israeli tanks also moved into the center of Bethlehem from two directions early today, witnesses said. Israel banned reporters from the scene, and there was no independent confirmation for either incursion.
But the moves have so far failed to halt Palestinian militants, who struck again with a suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
An Israeli policeman who stopped the bomber in his car at a roadblock and opened the door as the militant blew himself up suffered serious wounds.
"We are now in a state of war. We are not going to stop it until we reach our goals and see terror has stopped," Justice Minister Meir Shitreet told reporters at a Jerusalem news conference.
"In the next few days, the next few weeks, we will speak to him [Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat] in the language he knows," Mr. Shitreet said.
Suicide bombings and other attacks killed 124 Israelis in March, more than in any other month since fighting with Palestinians erupted in September 2000. This surge in casualties prompted the current Israeli offensive, which Mr. Sharon has vowed to prosecute until militants can no longer strike at Israel.
Though editorials in all of the country's newspapers have described the invasion and the decision to isolate Mr. Arafat as justified, some Israelis are wondering how their government will translate the operation into long-term security.
"I know it's necessary to go in, but I'm not sure I see how the soldiers will eventually get out," said Micha Sabag, a grocer in Jerusalem.
Others voiced concern that a broad operation would inflame Jordan and Egypt, Arab neighbors that Israel lives with in peace. Thousands of Arabs demonstrated against the Jewish state in both countries yesterday, and Jordanian officials told Reuters news agency that Amman was considering sending home Israel's ambassador.
A senior security source, briefing reporters in Jerusalem on the condition he not be identified, said the security situation inside Israel probably would get worse before it got better. But even if the army manages to smash militant groups, that alone will not end the attacks, he said. "There will have to be some kind of negotiation in order for things to really stabilize," the source conceded.
He said Israel was determined to round up all fugitives in the West Bank, including Marwan Barghouti, the wiry uprising leader who Israel accuses of leading the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. The brigade claimed responsibility for the Jerusalem car bombing.
Other fugitives are hiding out in Mr. Arafat's office and in a compound near Ramallah.
Though Israeli officials say they want to prevent chaos in the West Bank, some of their actions on the ground appear to be engendering it.
In Tulkarem yesterday, Palestinian security officials fled their headquarters when Israeli troops surrounded the town and helicopters circled overhead.
In at least one compound, they left behind prisoners who had been awaiting trial on charges of helping Israel kill key activists.
Moments after the security officials fled, Palestinian gunmen pulled eight of the suspected collaborators from their cells, beat them and shot them to death outside the jail, witnesses said. Some of the bodies were then dragged through the streets.
Israel relies on a network of agents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip thousands, according to unofficial estimates to track militants and get information about possible attacks. But the Israeli security source said the killings had more to do with settling old scores.
"Most were agents of the security forces in the past but are not agents now," he said.
Other militants killed two suspected collaborators in Qalqilya and one in Bethlehem. Hours after the killing, the focus shifted to Jerusalem, where officials said police thwarted what might have been another huge attack.
"There was a powerful explosion. The bomber's body was thrown from the car in the blast. The car was decimated," said Jerusalem police Cmdr. Mickey Levy at the scene of the bombing near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim.
"We believe the bomber's intention was to … blow himself up in the center of Jerusalem," he said.
Many residents expressed outrage against both Palestinians and anyone in Israel who suggests that a peaceful solution is possible. Some people chanted for Arab blood.
"Someone told me that we're not going to kill one Arab, because that will leave others to cry for them that we have to kill them all," said Jacob Lowi, 20, an Orthodox Jew and a recent immigrant to Israel who seemed appalled at that sentiment.
Many talked about the risks involved in such mundane acts as going to a coffee shop.
"This is our only entertainment now," said Samuel Hazot, 39, as he watched police clean up the latest bombing scene. "The normal things people do, you are afraid to do. They've taken the joy of life from us."


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