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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Palestinian gunmen kill 'collaborators'
Israeli soldiers take up positions around Bethlehem
Israeli forces have entered several Palestinian areas
Masked Palestinian gunmen have shot dead 11 suspected collaborators, as Israel continues to widen its offensive in the West Bank.

Eight people were killed in the West Bank town of Tulkarm by two gunmen, who entered a building used by the Palestinian intelligence service, Palestinian security sources said.

Coffins of three members of Koren family killed by suicide bombing in Haifa on Sunday
Israel has been battered by a spate of of suicide bombings

Earlier, two men also accused of helping the Israelis were found with gunshot wounds in the town of Qalqilya, and one man was killed in Bethlehem.

Israeli troops and tanks firing heavy machine guns later thrust into Tulkarm as helicopters circled overhead. The army already controls Qalqilya, and more tanks have massed on the outskirts of Bethlehem.

Palestinian security sources say 10 tanks made their way to the centre of Tulkarm on Monday afternoon - while dozens of tanks remained on the outskirts and around the two refugee camps located there.

The incursions came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared war on what he called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's "terrorist infrastructure".

Mr Sharon had been speaking in a televised address to the nation after two suicide bombings killed 17 people and injured more than 30 on Sunday.


In Qalqilya, the Israeli military said it was conducting searches for militants and weapons in order "to destroy the terrorist infrastructure" in the town.

Qalqilya is close to the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Netanya, which have both been targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers.

Power and water supplies were cut off as at least 60 tanks took up position, and some exchanges of fire were reported.

And in violence in the Gaza Strip, hospital officials say a child aged about 10 has been killed by Israeli gunfire in Rafah.

Five foreign peace activists and a Palestinian cameraman were lightly injured by shrapnel in Beit Jala near Jerusalem when Israeli troops opened fire during a pro-Palestinian solidarity demonstration.

An Israeli soldier looks out over Ramallah as smoke rises over the city
Ramallah's residents are in their fourth day of siege
The foreigners, reported to be from Australia, France, Japan, Britain and the US, were taking part in a march in Beit Jala under the slogan "We want peace not war".

With Israeli tanks massed around Bethlehem, the Pope has appealed for prayers for the city - holy to Christians as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

And he urged political and religious leaders to work to end "the tragic sequence of attacks and killing that bloody the Holy Land."

Islamic foreign ministers meeting in Malaysia have warned that Israeli military action against the Palestinians is dragging the region towards all-out war.

"Israel's terrorist actions and aggressive practices, posing a threat to international peace and security, and dragging the region towards an all-out war, necessitate immediate action by the UN Security Council," said ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Kuala Lumpur.


Anti-Israeli demonstrations have been taking place in several countries in the region.

Protesters took to the streets in several Egyptian cities, including Cairo, while around 1,000 students held a pro-Palestinian rally in Jordan.

Palestinians demonstrate outside the US embassy in Beirut
Protests are growing in the region against Israel's actions
In Lebanon, thousands of Palestinian refugees staged protest marches, vowing revenge if Mr Arafat is harmed and berating Arab countries for not doing enough to protect him.

Mr Arafat remains trapped in his headquarters in Ramallah, which Israel has now declared a closed military area.

Troops are turning journalists away from Mr Arafat's compound, after peace activists, followed by television reporters, marched into his besieged office on Sunday, vowing to act as a "human shield."

Israeli police now say they are considering deporting the group of activists - most of whom are French.

Reports from Ramallah say hospitals are running out of medicines and the morgues are full because it is impossible to transport bodies to burial grounds.

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The tanks are now moving in"
Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Natan Sharansky
"We are going after terrorists"
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
"Sharon wants to destroy the peace process"
See also:

01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli papers demand clearer goals
01 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Israel 'dragging Mid-East into war'
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Gunmen fire on Israel from Lebanon
31 Mar 02 | Media reports
Arab press rails at Sharon
30 Mar 02 | Middle East
Sharon's strong-arm tactic
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