- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

HEBRON, West Bank Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday toured the place where Palestinian gunmen killed 12 Israeli guards and soldiers, indicating that troops would seize land from Palestinians to protect Jewish settlers there.
The Palestinian attack Friday provoked outrage in Israel and led to a renewed Israeli military takeover of Hebron.
Mr. Sharon said yesterday that Israel would bolster the tiny Jewish settlements in Hebron by linking four small enclaves with the neighboring Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, Israeli radio stations reported.
That means Israel might take land where Palestinians live, a move that would face massive resistance. Mr. Sharon did not say how he planned to link the settlements, and his office did not return requests for comment.
About 450 Jewish settlers live in enclaves near the center of Hebron, a city with about 130,000 Palestinian residents. Several thousand settlers live in Kiryat Arba, about a half-mile to the east, and tens of thousands of Palestinians live between them.
The army has arrested at least 40 Palestinians since Saturday and has re-imposed a curfew in Hebron, military officials said.
Early today, in Gaza City, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at the headquarters of Preventive Security, the main official Palestinian force, and tanks and soldiers moved in, shelling buildings and setting fires. Two Palestinian security officers were slightly injured, doctors said, before the Israeli troops pulled out.
At a Cabinet meeting, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his call to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Sharon rejected the proposal.
Other Cabinet members also want Mr. Sharon to take stronger action. But Mr. Sharon has said he must weigh several factors, including the U.S. desire to control regional tensions as it seeks Arab support for a possible war against Iraq.
Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky said Israel might build additions to the Jewish settlements to connect the settler areas.
"We have to build settlement contiguity between Kiryat Arba, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the settlement community in Hebron," Mr. Sharansky told army radio.
Mr. Netanyahu signed a 1997 peace agreement when he was prime minister that divided Hebron into Jewish and Palestinian sectors. He said yesterday that he considered the deal canceled because of Palestinian attacks there.
Israeli troops moved into Hebron and other West Bank cities in June following a series of Palestinian suicide bombings. Such moves reduced, but did not halt, Palestinian violence and prompted criticism that Israel was imposing harsh restrictions on ordinary Palestinians, who often were unable to go to work or school.
The army pulled out of Hebron three weeks ago, saying the area was calm.
The violence came during U.S. envoy David Satterfield's visit to the region trying to calm the situation. The State Department denounced the attack as a "heinous crime."
Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the Israeli takeover of Hebron was meant to derail the American efforts for a cease-fire.
"The continuation of the Israeli military escalation is not going to lead anywhere, apart from creating more violence," Mr. Abu Rdeneh said.


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