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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 23:16 GMT
Israeli raids take heavy toll
Israeli troops move from house to house in Balata
At least 22 have been killed in the offensive (AP)
At least five Palestinians were killed on Friday as Israeli troops pressed ahead for a second day with an offensive against a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank town of Jenin.

There will be no security meetings and no political meetings as long as Israeli raids on the camps, destruction and killing continue

Palestinian official Ahmad Abdel-Rahman
One of the victims of the Jenin raid was a 10-year-old girl.

At least 20 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers have been killed in the two-day operation, which Israel says is aimed at rooting out militants from the Jenin camp and another camp at Balata, near Nablus.

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, has called for Israeli forces to withdraw immediately from the camps, and described the situation there as intolerable.

The Palestinian Authority has said it is suspending all contacts with Israel "as long as the destructive Israeli aggression continues".

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said a seven-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli gunfire in the village of Beit Lahiya on Friday.

The incursions marked the first time that Israel has stormed refugee camps since the latest uprising erupted in September 2000.

Overnight offensive

Clashes continued into Friday evening in Jenin, but the fighting was said to have died down in Balata.

Palestinian sources said Palestinian gunmen had been surrounded by Israeli tanks and snipers on rooftops after troops backed by helicopter gun ships entered Jenin in the early hours of Friday morning.

This is for the sake of our way of life here, in malls, in cities, in streets

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli cabinet minister

On Thursday, 13 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier died in fierce battles on the outskirts of the Jenin and Balata refugee camps.

Israel said the campaign was aimed at crushing the Palestinian militants' infrastructure in the camps, where many recent suicide bombers have come from.

"This is for the sake of our way of life here, in malls, in cities, in streets," Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel army radio.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for immediate international intervention "before a state of chaos engulfs the whole Middle East".

House to house

As Israeli tanks and ground troops moved into the crowded 19,000-strong Jenin camp, mosques called on residents to confront the troops.

Shami Shami, a leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in Jenin, said 300 gunmen had joined the fighting.

"The gunmen are shooting at the tanks and others are throwing homemade grenades," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Witnesses said tanks were moving down the main street in Jenin as soldiers using loudspeakers urged militants to surrender.

Less than 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, in Balata, Israeli soldiers searching for militants and arms caches moved from house to house, blowing holes through the walls to avoid going outside and exposing themselves to gunmen.

A spokesman for the Israeli prime minister said soldiers had uncovered arms and explosives, but had not made any arrests.

Palestinian militants responded to the raids on Thursday night by firing two mortars and gun shots at Gilo, a settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem which the Israelis view as a suburb of the city, wounding three Israelis.

Palestinian officials have accused Israel of trying to sabotage a Saudi peace initiative, which was presented to the United Nations hours earlier.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Israeli troops determined to show there is no where they cannot go"
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel
"Arafat has the key to this whole situation"
Palestinian Fatah leader, Hussam Khader
"We have the right to our own independent state"
See also:

01 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel cautioned over raid
28 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saudi plan spurs Mid-East diplomacy
27 Feb 02 | Media reports
Saudi move stirs regional hopes
26 Feb 02 | Middle East
Pregnant women under fire
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