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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Israel flexes its muscles
Grieving for the Palestinians killed in a helicopter strike
Palestinians mourn victims of a helicopter strike
Israel has beefed up security in the West Bank in a further show of force against Palestinian strikes.

Extra patrols and sniffer dogs are being deployed in areas near larger Palestinian towns that border Israeli-controlled territory.

The move came as Israel deployed more soldiers and tanks around Palestinian towns in the biggest movement of forces since the Palestinian uprising began 10 month's ago.

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says the move is designed to send a clear message that there will be a massive retaliation if the Palestinian Authority does not restrain militant groups such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Israel denial

Israeli spokesmen said the troops were being moved as a warning, in response to the "flagrant violation" of the two sides' tattered ceasefire.

Palestinians claim Israel is counting down to an attempt to re-occupy parts of the West Bank.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, visiting London, said his country had no intention of recapturing Palestinian-controlled West Bank land.

"Contrary to the reports, we do not intend to reconquer the territories," he told reporters.

These reinforcements, tanks and military units are pushing the fragile situation to the edge of explosion

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, Arafat aide

Worst violence

Additional soldiers arrived at existing West Bank checkpoints early on Wednesday. Others took up positions along roads, stopping and searching passing cars.

Many Palestinians travelling from Bethlehem to Jerusalem bypassed the crowded checkpoint on foot, taking paths skirting the main road.

The mobilisation came after some of the worst violence in the region in recent months, including a suicide bombing and mortar attacks by Palestinians and Israeli helicopter strikes.

Senior Palestinians were quick to warn that Israel's actions were pushing the region towards disaster.

"These reinforcements, tanks and military units are pushing the fragile situation to the edge of explosion," Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, an aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said.

A funeral of one of the soldiers killed in Monday's suicide bombing
Funerals for the two soldiers killed in Monday's suicide bombing
Israel governemnt spokesman Avi Pazner says what happens next depends on Yasser Arafat.

"This is a warning. This is a deterrence measure to try and convince Arafat to get his people to stop this terrorism campaign."

The mobilisation comes after at least four Palestinians were killed and several others injured in an Israeli helicopter strike.

Israeli military sources said that the targets had been planning a bomb attack on the Maccabiah Games, an international Jewish sporting event which opened on Monday evening in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the helicopter attack as an "act of war perpetrated by the Israeli Government against the unarmed and innocent Palestinian population".

Mortar bomb

Just a few hours later, a mortar bomb was fired at the Jewish settlement of Gilo in what the Israeli army says is the first attack from the West Bank since the latest Palestinian uprising began in September 2000.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

The helicopter strike followed an overnight attack by Israeli tanks on Palestinian checkpoints in the town of Jenin and Tulkarem in retaliation to a suicide bomb attack in northern Israel.

The bomber blew himself up near a train station in the town of Binyamina on Monday, killing two Israelis, a male and a female soldier, and injuring at least eight others.

Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister
"Yasser Arafat, like us, does not have a choice but to return to peace and reason"
Marwan Kanafani, spokesman for Yasser Arafat
"It is up to the world to stop this war against the Palestinian people"
Israeli government spokesman Avi Paznar
"Our only intention is to send a strong warning to Yasser Arafat"
The BBC's Paul Wood
"Violence has been tit for tat"
See also:

18 Jul 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Sharon's options
17 Jul 01 | Middle East
Israel hits back after suicide bombing
13 Jul 01 | Middle East
Hamas vows revenge for 'assassination'
09 Jul 01 | Middle East
Suicide bomber dies in Gaza blast
17 Jul 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Mideast truce crumbling
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