- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

NABLUS, West Bank Israel, in the biggest demolition in the West Bank in years, razed 62 shops and market stalls in a Palestinian village yesterday as troops clashed with protesters, residents said.
Israel said the shops were built illegally. The mayor of the village accused Israel of waging war on the Palestinian economy.
In a disputed area on the Lebanese border, Hezbollah guerrillas shelled Israeli positions yesterday, the first such attack in months, provoking Israeli air strikes and artillery fire that wounded two civilians, security officials said.
Seven bulldozers, guarded by about 300 troops, began tearing down shops in the village of Nazlat Issa early yesterday. By midmorning, 62 shops had been demolished, said Mayor Ziad Salem.
Dozens of protesters threw stones at troops who fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel pellets. Other demonstrators chanted, "Down with the occupation."
The village is on the edge of the West Bank, close to Israel. The 170-shop market in Nazlat Issa drew many Israeli customers before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000. The market is a main source of income for the village's 2,500 residents, Mr. Salem said, adding that Israeli officials informed the shop owners that the entire market would be demolished.
In another development, Israel's Supreme Court backtracked from a ban against soldiers using Palestinians to aid their military operations. An earlier ruling banned the practice of soldiers ordering Palestinians to knock on the doors of those believed to be militants, endangering their lives if gunfire erupted. In yesterday's decision, the court said that Palestinians must not be forced to help soldiers, but they may be used if they volunteer their services.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken a hard line against a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinian officials say he is escalating his activities to garner right-wing support in the days ahead of a Jan. 28 general election.
Israeli troops have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes, many in the Gaza Strip, in the past 28 months of fighting. In Gaza, more than 5,700 Palestinians have been made homeless, according to Palestinian officials. Many of the buildings were razed in military operations, with Israel saying the structures provided cover for Palestinian gunmen.
In Nazlat Issa, demolition orders were distributed earlier this month, and shop owners were told they had 15 days to file court appeals. The mayor said the market has been operating for more than 10 years and that this was the first time merchants received demolition orders.
Talia Somech, a spokeswoman for Israel's military government in the West Bank, said it took 10 years to take down the shops because a series of court and committee hearings precede the demolition of illegal structures in the West Bank.
She said the owners had a chance to remove the inventory before the demolition.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said the demolitions "reflect the fait accompli policies of Sharon on the ground, knocking down homes, livelihoods."

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