- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

From combined dispatches
NABLUS, West Bank Israeli tanks entered the West Bank city of Nablus early today, witnesses said, surrounding a hotly contested Jewish shrine that Israel had abandoned one month after the current uprising began.
Palestinians said the Israelis encountered heavy resistance and gunfire. At least 20 tanks entered the city, and soldiers declared a curfew in the area, ordering Palestinians to stay in their houses, witnesses said.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
The incursion was the second in as many days. Yesterday, Israeli tanks, soldiers and armored personnel carriers entered another part of Nablus, seizing an apartment building overlooking the city. A military statement following yesterday's two-hour operation said it was in response to several Palestinian attacks in the Nablus area.
Reports early today said the Israelis had begun pulling out of Nablus.
Hard-line Israelis have been clamoring for their government to retake Joseph's Tomb ever since it was evacuated in October 2000 following a two-day pitched battle in which six Palestinians and an Israeli border policeman were killed.
The site, believed by many Jews to be the burial place of the biblical Joseph but claimed by Palestinians as the tomb of an Arab sheik, is inside the West Bank's largest Palestinian city and can be reached only by entering a crowded Arab neighborhood.
Until Israel pulled out, armed Israeli convoys brought rabbinical students to the site to study in a makeshift college every day and took them out to a nearby Jewish settlement at night.
Yesterday, Israeli warplanes and helicopters bombed a Palestinian security headquarters and other targets in the Gaza Strip yesterday, injuring several persons, hours after Palestinian gunmen killed two female soldiers in a cafe shooting spree.
Perhaps more ominous, the army said that Palestinians fired rockets into Israel for the first time in more than 16 months of fighting. The rockets landed in a field, injuring no one.
The army said the missiles, fired from the Gaza Strip, were Kassam II rockets built by Hamas, the fundamentalist group that has sent dozens of suicide bombers to attack civilian targets.
The crude missiles, about 5 inches in diameter, carry a warhead with slightly less explosives than the amount carried by many suicide bombers. But they are more deadly than mortars, can be fired by remote control, and their range of a few miles opens up many Israeli cities to air attack from Palestinian territories.


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