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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 17:26 GMT
US recalls Mid-East envoy
Boys carrying stones escape Israeli army fire
Four Palestinians were killed and 60 hurt in the clashes
Washington has recalled its special Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni for consultations, after nearly three weeks of rapidly escalating violence and failed attempts to agree on a ceasefire.

anthony zinni
Zinni's mission has coincided with an upsurge in violence
"The purpose of these consultations is to provide an assessment to the president and Secretary Powell of the situation in light of recent events, and how best to proceed," Mr Boucher said.

"General Zinni will remain engaged and return to the region," he said.

In the latest violence, four Palestinians were killed and 60 injured in clashes after Israeli tanks moved into the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip before dawn on Saturday.

Two of those killed were teenagers and one of them was a young boy, according to Palestinian hospital sources. The fourth casualty was a policeman.

The Israeli army said that the raid was part of a widespread search for militants from the Hamas movement and that it had made a number of arrests.

Israeli tanks also advanced to the outskirts of the towns of Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, and nearby Beit Lahia.


Map
ISRAELI MOVEMENTS:
  • Ramallah: Israeli tanks are 200 metres from Mr Arafat's offices
  • Jabalia: Tanks are on the outskirts of the town and of nearby Beit Lahia
  • Beit Hanoun: Israeli troops are occupying the town
  • Gaza City: Jets have bombed Mr Arafat's compound for three nights running
  • Rafah: Tanks entered the town

  • In southern Gaza, the Israeli army shot dead a Palestinian man who they said was trying to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif early on Saturday morning.

    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Gaza City suffered a third night of Israeli air strikes, and Israeli tanks also entered Rafah in the south of Gaza.

    Israeli tanks and troops moved into Beit Hanoun at around 0300 local time. A number of security buildings were demolished, while residents were ordered to stay indoors.

    Eyewitnesses said a number of men were called out of their houses by Israeli troops, and the home of the leader of the military wing of the radical Islamic group Hamas, Salah Shihada, was raided and searched.

    The Hamas commander is currently in hiding, but Israeli troops arrested between five and 10 militants from the group.

    US boycott

    In a separate development, early on Saturday the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which condemned "acts of terror" against Israelis and Palestinians and called for UN monitors in the region.

    US Ambassador John Negroponte said the Palestinian-backed resolution was aimed at isolating Israel and did not mentioned the recent suicide attacks against Israelis.

    An Israeli soldier leads a blindfolded Palestinian man
    Israel says it made several arrests
    Israel says the action against militants is made necessary by the failure of Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to control those responsible for violence against Israelis.

    The Palestinian Authority says it is doing its best to arrest militants but that military action by Israel has made that task all the more difficult.

    US President George Bush said on Friday that Mr Zinni's job was being made tougher because Mr Arafat was reluctant to round up "killers and people who would derail the peace process".

    The Palestinian leader himself remains under siege in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, with Israeli tanks stationed only 200 metres from his offices. He was expected to make a statement to his people on Sunday.

    On Friday night, F-16s dropped at least two bombs, damaging a building used by the Palestinian leader's elite commando squad, Force 17.

    Israeli army sources it was a direct response to the firing of two mortars into a Jewish settlement in northern Gaza.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Washington
    "The expectation is he will return to the US next Sunday"
    The BBC's Kylie Morris in Gaza
    "Another day of Israeli attacks in the Gaza strip"
    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
    "I hope he will come back as soon as possible"
    See also:

    15 Dec 01 | Middle East
    US blocks Mid-East observers
    13 Dec 01 | Middle East
    Palestinian leader's house raided
    13 Dec 01 | Media reports
    Palestinian radio hits back at Israel
    13 Dec 01 | Middle East
    US and EU to maintain Arafat link
    12 Dec 01 | Middle East
    Arafat says Sharon has him marked
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