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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
West Bank streets stay empty
Red Crescent ambulance waits at Israeli checkpoint near Nablus
Israel is still searching for militants around Nablus
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By Tarik Kafala
BBC News Online, Nablus

The most populous city in the West Bank, Nablus, was on Tuesday once again a closed military zone.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was not allowing anyone in or out of the city because of ongoing operations.

We are under curfew now - they lift it for an hour or two some days without announcing it, but we don't go out because there is nothing to buy

Mirva Daraghmeh
Nablus resident

Tuesday's operations appear to be concentrated in the Askar refugee camp and in the Rafidiah area, where a 12-year-old boy is said to have been killed and mass arrests are being reported.

Mirva Daraghmeh lives in central Nablus.

When BBC News Online spoke to her on Tuesday afternoon, her husband, a reporter for the Associated Press, had just been arrested.

"They came into our building of 30 flats and took away my husband and 20 other men," Mirav said

"We are under curfew now. They lift it for an hour or two some days without announcing it, but we don't go out because there is nothing to buy.

"The shops are shut. People are too afraid to move. I haven't been out of the house for 12 days.

"We know the press aren't able to come in to see what they have done and are doing, and we have not received any food aid or water."

Around the West Bank, conditions are similar.

Curfew fears

In Ramallah, the streets are reported to be eerily empty and silent though military restrictions are supposed to have been lifted.

In Bethlehem, where the siege at the Church of the Nativity continues, the IDF has taken over the fifth floor of the hotel where the international press in the town has been staying.

Israeli tank near Nablus on Tuesday
Israel is tense on the eve of its Independence Day
The fifth floor has a panoramic view of Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, and has until now been the main camera position for reporters trying to see what is happening at the church.

The curfew in the city has also been tightened for Palestinians.

In Tulkarm, arrest operations were carried out on Tuesday.

Reporters who have managed to get into Jenin refugee camp, despite restrictions, report that whole areas are devastated and bodies are being dug up from the rubble of destroyed homes.

The Red Cross has described the refugee camp as resembling an earthquake zone.

In East Jerusalem, a curfew was imposed on some areas.

Israeli security officials say that they are trying to prevent a suicide attack.

In Jerusalem as a whole, security is very high, in part because of the expectation of attacks on Israel's Independence Day, which falls on Wednesday.

High security

Israeli officials announced on Sunday night that they were lifting military restrictions everywhere in the West Bank except for the Jenin camp, Mr Arafat's compound and the area immediately around the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

This has not been the experience of many aid workers and journalists on Monday and Tuesday.

What we have seen in Palestine and what we are seeing has broken so many moral red lines and laws on human rights and humanitarian treatment

Abed Hamza, aid worker

On three separate occasions on Monday, BBC journalists were fired at by the IDF in West Bank areas which were, officially, no longer restricted.

A Palestinian lorry carrying milk powder, flour, sugar and water was held up at the main checkpoint into Nablus on Monday.

It was the third day running that the lorry had been stopped from getting in despite the fact that an Israeli Arab member of parliament had been given permission by the IDF to arrange the aid shipment into Nablus.

The head of the delegation trying to get the aid in, Abed Hamza, told BBC News Online that he hoped European governments and organisations would boycott Israel.

"What we have seen in Palestine and what we are seeing has broken so many moral red lines and laws on human rights and humanitarian treatment," Mr Hamza said.

Nablus is considered by Israel second only to Jenin as the main source of Palestinian militancy and a launching ground for Palestinian suicide missions.

It was the scene of heavy fighting over three days last week.

The death toll has been estimated at 30 to 40, although, without access and as time passes, figures such as these are extremely hard to confirm.

Deserted villages

The home of the Shobi family in Nablus was bulldozed at the start of the IDF operations.

The collapsing building killed a number of family members, while two were trapped in an airless and pitch-black room for five days.

Palestinian men carry the dead body of a woman pulled out of rubble in Nablus
Aid workers rely on the stench of bodies to lead them to the dead
They were discovered and brought out alive on Friday when rescue workers heard them banging.

The roads of the West Bank were relatively busy on Monday and Tuesday, mainly with Israeli army and settler traffic.

Most Palestinian villages along the highways used by the settlers were deserted and shuttered tight.

Some Palestinians outside the towns moved about.

A shopkeeper in Funduq, a village near to Nablus, said that he had been locked in his house until Monday.

He said the residents of Funduq had seen their first fresh fruit and vegetables since the start of the Israeli operations in the West Bank on 29 March.

See also:

16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Plea for access to devastated Jenin
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Bethlehem church stalemate grinds on
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat aide chides Arab leaders
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