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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 05:08 GMT
Israel raids Palestinian city
Israeli soldiers and tanks after taking over a hilltop in Nablus
Israel has imposed a blockade around Nablus
Israeli troops have entered the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank, hours after an Israeli woman was shot dead by suspected Palestinian gunmen nearby.

A gun battle broke out between soldiers and Palestinian militants after tanks and armoured personnel carriers moved into the city and surrounded the Askar refugee camp.


The Israeli military said its forces searched buildings and arrested "about three" Palestinians before withdrawing two hours later.

The army said the operation was aimed at preventing planned attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

Earlier, a 78-year-old Israeli woman was shot dead and her son wounded after they were ambushed on a road south of Nablus.

Search for militants

Israeli troops, meanwhile, clashed with Palestinian youths in the Palestinian village of Tamoun as soldiers carried out a house-to-house search for suspected Palestinian militants.

Funeral of Miri Ohana, killed in an attack on Hamra
The Israeli raids follow an attack on a Jewish settlement

The Israeli army said soldiers were looking for accomplices of Palestinian Mohammed Ziad al-Khalili, who attacked the nearby Jewish settlement of Hamra on Wednesday.

An Israeli woman, her disabled 11-year-old daughter and an Israeli soldier were killed in the raid, as well as al-Khalili.

Israeli armoured personnel carriers and tanks first entered Tamoun on Friday.

Military sources said 15 Palestinians were questioned before being released; Palestinian sources said 20 Palestinians were arrested.

The Israeli army said soldiers opened fire after coming under attack by Palestinians throwing stones and explosive devices.

Two Palestinian teenagers were wounded and taken to hospital in Nablus.

'Sanctuary for terrorists'

Israeli troops imposed a blockade on Friday around Tamoun and Nablus, where Israel said al-Khalili came from.

[Nablus] has become a main terror centre and serves as a sanctuary city for terrorists

Israeli army
An Israeli military statement said Nablus had "become a main terror centre and serves as a sanctuary city for terrorists".

Israel said it was taking action because the Palestinian Authority was failing to stop militants from leaving the city to carry out attacks on Israeli targets.

As the violence continued, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Spain backed a French plan supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said the creation of an independent Palestine must be the "starting point of a negotiating process".

The European plan is at odds with the United States' policy, which favours a step-by-step approach to resuming peace talks.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The exchanges of fire were heavy"
The BBC's Lyse Doucet
"Almost every day this has become a place of pilgrimage"
See also:

08 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinians die in Israel car blast
08 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinian descent into chaos
07 Feb 02 | Middle East
Arafat condemns Israeli 'siege'
07 Feb 02 | Middle East
Violence clouds Sharon's US visit
06 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel demolishes 'illegal' homes
04 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel blamed for militants' deaths
02 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israeli PM meets top Palestinians
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