- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2002

From combined dispatches
JERUSALEM A British aid worker was killed yesterday in a U.N. compound in the West Bank during a gunbattle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen the first senior U.N. official to die in more than two years of fighting.
The United Nations accused Israeli soldiers of preventing an ambulance from immediately reaching Iain Hook, a senior manager for the U.N. Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees. The Israeli army said he was evacuated from the U.N. compound in the Jenin refugee camp as soon as possible.
The death occurred hours after Israel reoccupied the West Bank town of Bethlehem for the first time since August, after a Jerusalem bus bombing Thursday that killed 11 persons, four of them children.
With the incursion, Israel has retaken control of all Palestinian population centers in the West Bank except for the quiet oasis of Jericho reflecting the massive deployment that capped military offensives in April and June.
Confirming Israeli control in those areas, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said agreements reached in August to give Palestinian forces responsibility for security in Bethlehem were "canceled and don't exist."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is facing a primary next week against his foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for control of the Likud Party, resorted to biblical warnings in alerting Palestinians that Israel would show no mercy as it hunts for militants.
"Anyone who hurts Israel, a little or a lot, his hand will be chopped off," Mr. Sharon said as he inspected a security fence being built around Jerusalem to try to prevent militants from staging attacks.
A Palestinian doctor in a Jenin hospital said bullets taken from Mr. Hook's body were of a type used by Israeli soldiers. Mr. Hook, 54, ran a UNRWA reconstruction project in the Jenin camp, which was heavily damaged in an Israeli sweep for militants in April.
Israeli armor rumbled into Bethlehem in the West Bank before dawn and took up positions across the city.
Soldiers arrested suspected militants and sealed off the Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus, to prevent any militants from taking refuge there as they did during an Israeli incursion in April.
"We are currently controlling the whole city," a local military commander said. The army said troops were searching for 30 militants involved in the bus bombing and other attacks.
Mr. Sharon sent troops in to reoccupy Bethlehem after pressure to hit back hard for the bombing.
But his response was likely to be tempered by calls for restraint by the United States.
The army blew up the home near Bethlehem of the 23-year-old bomber behind Thursday's attack and a house belonging to a wanted militant from the Islamic Jihad group. Troops rounded up about 20 suspects in Bethlehem and 16 persons elsewhere in the West Bank, most of them members of Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the bus attack.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said the Israeli operation violated international agreements.


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