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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 13:14 GMT
Palestinian radio defies Israeli attack
Palestinian police could only look on as flames engulfed the building
Palestinian police could only look on as the fire raged
The Voice of Palestine radio station is back on air - only hours after Israeli soldiers blew up the building in the West Bank town of Ramallah that houses its studios and administrative office.


[The] Voice of Palestine radio is not only a building to be destroyed - it is inside the hearts of every Palestinian

Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub

Broadcasting from a private facility, the radio quoted nationalist and Islamic forces calling on Palestinians to "take to the streets, create human shields, and participate in the battle to defend the resistance, the intifadah, and the symbols of our national sovereignty".

Israeli troops supported by tanks had entered the Voice of Palestine television and radio headquarters before dawn to set explosive charges and evacuate the occupants.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Ramallah mosque
The pressure on Arafat is unrelenting
The explosions sparked a fire that gutted the upper floors of the building.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey says the carefully choreographed operation was the latest response to a gun attack by a Palestinian militant on Thursday which left six Israelis dead.

Israel accuses the Palestinian Authority of using its television and radio networks to broadcast propaganda that it believes fuel the uprising that began more than 15 months ago.

The Palestinians say the network has simply been reporting the mood of the people,


This Palestinian television and radio station has long been a centre of incitement against the state of Israel

Israeli Government spokesman
"This is another Israeli crime against the Voice of Palestine and at the same time against the Palestinian Authority," said Bassem Abu Somaya, head of the Palestinian Broadcast Centre.

Israeli government spokesman, Arie Mekel, said the measures were necessary and would continue.

"This Palestinian television and radio station has long been a centre of incitement against the state of Israel and against the Jewish people and we will continue do whatever necessary to ...ensure their safety."

Blockade

Israeli forces on Friday imposed a tight blockade around the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.


Ramallah city centre
  • Israeli troops blow up radio station
  • Israeli tanks go to within 30 metres of Arafat's headquarters
  • Israeli troops have been stationed less than 1km north of Arafat's headquarters since December
  • Manarah Circle is the main square of the city
  • Tanks rumbled forward to positions within 30 metres of his office, meeting with a shower of stones thrown by Palestinian protesters.

    One of the demonstrators, 22-year-old Hani Odeh, was shot by Israeli troops. He died in hospital from bullet wounds to his head and neck, officials said.

    Earlier on Friday, Israeli jets reduced a Palestinian security headquarters to rubble in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, killing one policeman and injuring at least 40 people.

    Bat Mitzvah killings

    The raid came hours after a Palestinian attack in the northern city of Hadera, in which a gunman burst into a banqueting hall with an assault rifle, killing six Israelis and injuring 30.

    Forensic scientists
    It was the first attack inside Israel since December
    The Israeli Government blamed Mr Arafat for the attack - the first on civilians inside Israel in a month - and vowed to "teach him a lesson".

    The United States and the European Union also condemned the killing at Hadera.

    Hundreds of people, who were celebrating a teenage girl's coming-of-age, or Bat Mitzvah, were caught up in the shooting at Hadera.

    The militant al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - a Palestinian armed group associated with Mr Arafat's Fatah organisation - said the attack was carried out by a Fatah member in revenge for the killing of Fatah member Raed Karmi on Monday. It threatened further attacks.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Sue Haley
    "Tension continues in Ramallah"
    See also:

    18 Jan 02 | Middle East
    'Another dark day in Israel'
    03 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Tough times for US Mideast envoy
    14 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Leading Palestinian killed in blast
    10 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Palestinian militants abandon truce
    14 Jan 02 | Middle East
    Profile: Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
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