- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

JERUSALEM Israel pushed its military offensive in the West Bank yesterday, despite U.S. appeals to withdraw, and warned Syria and Lebanon that a new war could be brewing on their borders.
Israeli officials told the two neighboring countries that its restraint would not last much longer against "deliberate escalation."
"We would like to warn the governments of Syria and Lebanon to stop the provocation," Danny Ayalon, the foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said. "We have been very restrained, but they must understand enough is enough."
Israeli soldiers met heavy resistance in Nablus and Jenin, two heavily populated Palestinian cities that have put up a fierce resistance. As of last night, both sides were reporting heavier casualties than at any point in the eight-day conflict.
The Palestinian fighters "have their backs against the walls," Brig. Gen. Eyal Shlein told Israel Radio. "We trapped them in there [and] attacked them with the intention they should surrender.
"Those that don't surrender, we will kill them," he said.
Residents of Jenin said there were bodies in the streets and heavy smoke in the air. Ambulances have been halted by Israeli soldiers, whose tanks also have cut electricity and water to most of the city.
The Israeli army said 12 soldiers have been killed in two days of combat, which includes street shootouts, house-to-house searches for bomb-making facilities and sweeps for Palestinians suspected of terrorist activity.
"This is not fighting between armies, but a massacre in Jenin camp," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said yesterday on CNN, comparing the situation to the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Pakestinians in Lebanese refugee camps Sabra and Shatila.
The Palestinians appealed to the United Nations and aid organizations to intervene.
Israeli officials said they are moving deliberately, resisting a massive use of force in an effort to limit civilian casualties.
Israeli civilian and military officials also said that, despite international pressure to withdraw from the autonomous Palestinian territories, they will not do so until they are satisfied that they have uprooted terrorist organizations.
"We said that four weeks is the minimum to uproot terror," said Mr. Ayalon. "When we did half-jobs [and] relied on [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat, the situation deteriorated."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem on Friday, after stops in Morocco and Europe. The U.S. mediator for the region, Gen. Anthony Zinni, remains there.
Meanwhile, a new front appears to be opening on Israel's northern border.
Israeli jets and artillery bombed and shelled southern Lebanon in retaliation for rockets fired by Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas.
No one has been injured or killed in the low-level exchange of fire over the Shebaa Farms area, which has been simmering for nearly a week.
Israeli occupied a 10-mile-wide "security zone" of southern Lebanon for 22 years but unilaterally withdrew in 2000, largely because of a grinding war with the Syrian-backed and Iranian-financed Hezbollah.
The United Nations has confirmed Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanese territory and said the still-occupied Shebaa Farms area is actually Syrian.
Syria, the de facto power in Lebanon, claims Shebaa is actually Lebanese land, therefore justifying the resistance effort.
"Hezbollah, under the direction of Syria and Iran, is trying to pull the region into a war," said Israeli Air Force Gen. Dan Halutz. "The whole aim of their shooting is to try to pull us into retaliation."
Earlier this week, 20,000 Syrian troops were redeployed from the Bekaa Valley to the Shebaa Farms area, but they withdrew yesterday in apparent anticipation of reprisals.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces yesterday fired on the Ramallah compound where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been imprisoned with bodyguards, aides and foreign anti-war activists. Palestinian sources said four guards were wounded.
And in Bethlehem, three church friars and two Palestinian women left the Church of the Nativity yesterday with the assistance of the Israeli army.
The standoff there continues into its fourth day, with at least 100 Palestinians inside the Church of the Nativity and hundreds of Israeli soldiers ringing the site where Christians believe Christ was born.

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