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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Israelis move into West Bank town
Israeli soldiers in Hebron
Israel says its soldiers were fired on
Israeli tanks have moved into the flashpoint West Bank town of Hebron, the second such incursion in three days.

As the tanks rolled into the Palestinian-controlled area of the city, they destroyed five police posts.

It appears they were killed during a 'work accident' while preparing a bomb

Israeli police spokesman
Meanwhile, the bodies of two Palestinians who were apparently trying to plant a bomb have been found near the stadium where Israel's Maccabiah Games - or Jewish Olympics - are due to begin on Monday evening.

The military said the soldiers who moved into Hebron returned Palestinian fire from several locations in the town, the only one in the West Bank which is divided into Israeli and Palestinian zones.

The incidents followed attempts on Sunday by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to end the violence in talks in Cairo.

Palestinians injured

The posts that the Israeli troops destroyed were run by Force 17, a Palestinian unit which Israel has accused of repeated shooting and bomb attacks.

Israeli troops argue with Jewish settlers
Tensions are running high in Hebron
Palestinian officials said nine people were wounded.

On Thursday, Israeli tanks moved briefly into the Palestinian part of Hebron after two Jewish settlers were shot and killed.

Witnesses said Monday's operation was much larger. It followed repeated exchanges of fire between Palestinian neighbourhoods and Israeli army positions.

Escalating violence

Incursions by Israeli forces into Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were frequent before a US-sponsored ceasefire came into effect last month.

However, the truce has never fully taken hold, and the violence has been escalating steadily again.

The two Palestinians who died were killed in an explosion about one kilometre (0.5 miles) from Jewish West Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, where the 16th Maccabiah Games are to open in a night-time ceremony attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Athletes frightened

"The bodies of two Palestinians were found in a field, and it appears they were killed during a 'work accident' while preparing a bomb," police said.

Shimon Peres has come under fire from a cabinet colleague
Israel has mounted a heavy security operation for the games, which were almost cancelled after numerous Jewish foreign delegations said the Palestinian uprising, now in its tenth month, had frightened away many athletes.

The Maccabiah Games are held in Israel every four years. Israeli Government officials had said their cancellation would be a victory for "terrorism".

'Still hope for peace'

Mr Peres and Mr Arafat met in Cairo on Sunday in the latest attempt to end the deadlock over the ceasefire.

Mr Peres was quoted as saying after the 90-minute meeting that there was still hope of finding a solution based on the recommendations of an international panel led by former US Senator George Mitchell.

But he said that Israel would not "negotiate under fire", and that first hostilities and what he described as incitement had to cease.

Mr Peres also denied media reports that Israel was planning a large-scale military offensive in the Palestinian areas.

But his perceived conciliatory stance was met with criticism from a right-wing cabinet colleague.

"What new things did Peres sell this time? We don't know. We have suffered enough from Peres's attitude," Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi was quoted as saying.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Middle East
Hebron: City of strife
15 Jul 01 | Middle East
No breakthrough in Peres-Arafat talks
14 Jul 01 | Middle East
US tries to revive Mid-East peace
11 Jul 01 | Middle East
Sharon's dilemma
13 Jul 01 | Middle East
Hamas vows revenge for 'assassination'
10 Jul 01 | Middle East
US condemns 'provocative' Israel
09 Jul 01 | Middle East
Suicide bomber dies in Gaza blast
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