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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Violence erupts in Hebron and Gaza
Palestinians watch Israeli soldier patrolling in Bethlehem
Troops remain in Bethlehem and parts of Ramallah
There has been more violence in the Palestinian territories after an overnight Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Israeli army said one of its undercover units shot dead a Palestinian policeman near the West Bank city of Hebron, acknowledging that an initial report of five killed was a mistake.

We consider, with the greatest caution, that there is a greater determination on the Palestinian side to reach a solution [in Bethlehem]

Israeli General Ron Kitrey
Palestinian sources say one policeman was killed and four wounded in the incident at an Israeli checkpoint.

Earlier, at least one Palestinian was killed in gunbattles when Israeli tanks and troops entered Hebron. Israeli troops are reported to have arrested several Palestinians before withdrawing from the area.

Hebron is one of only two major West Bank towns not to have been reoccupied during Israel's military offensive. An Israeli general said the army would continue to launch "pinpoint offensives".

There has also been violence in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military said they had shot dead four Palestinians who tried to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom early on Thursday.

Meanwhile in Bethlehem, Israeli and Palestinian officials are preparing to resume negotiations over the three-week siege at the Church of the Nativity.

Exile option

Although there has been no breakthrough on the fate of armed militants inside the church, both sides reported some progress after talks on Wednesday.

"The negotiations will continue... and we consider, with the greatest caution, that there is a greater determination on the Palestinian side to reach a solution," Israeli General Ron Kitrey said.

A negotiator signals to those inside the church to be let in
Negotiators are hoping for a breakthrough
An Israeli spokesman said the Palestinians had undertaken to release about a dozen children under the age of 18 - including two 10-year-olds.

This would be the first large-scale release from the church where more than 200 people have been trapped - including dozens of gunmen wanted by Israel as well as nuns, priests and civilians.

The sides are also reported to have agreed on the removal of two dead bodies from the compound.

After talks ended on Wednesday, the BBC's Richard Miron in Bethlehem said there was a shift in the previous Palestinian position on the fate of the armed militants, with mention of possible deportation to what a senior official called a "friendly foreign country".

The Palestinians had previously discounted any discussion of exile abroad.

But Bethlehem Mayor Hannah Nassa, who participated in the meeting, spoke of a tense atmosphere caused, he said, by an exchange of gunfire that preceded the talks and which resulted in the death of one armed Palestinian security official inside the church.

Another Palestinian and an Israeli soldier were wounded in the clashes.

UN inquiry

A UN team is due to arrive in the West Bank town of Jenin on Saturday to investigate an Israeli army attack on the refugee camp.

The composition of the inquiry panel is still unclear. The UN has said it will consider the appointment of new members following Israeli demands for military counter-terrorism experts to be included.

Palestinian men look at the rubble left after the Israeli offensive in Jenin
A UN inquiry into the Jenin offensive has been delayed
Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of killing hundreds of people in Jenin. But Israel insists that those killed were overwhelmingly hardline Palestinian militants who were given a chance to surrender.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington on Wednesday that he had seen no evidence of a massacre by Israel in Jenin but that it was in Israel's best interests to allow the UN investigation to go ahead.

Israel launched its offensive to root out what it calls the Palestinian "infrastructure of terror" following a wave of suicide bombings that killed scores of people in Israeli cities.

A senior Israeli military officer, Major General Giora Eiland told the Associated Press news agency that that Israel had wiped out "almost the entire leadership" in the West Bank of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

The BBC's Jennifer Glasse
"It would seem this is a continuation of what Israel would call its 'war on terrorism'"
EU foreign policy rep. Javier Solana
"The sooner the release of Arafat is done, the better for everybody"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | Middle East
No breakthrough in Bethlehem talks
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Mubarak denounces Israel
24 Apr 02 | Middle East
Hamas bans children's 'sacrifices'
21 Apr 02 | Middle East
Palestinians flee Bethlehem church
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Church with a turbulent history
16 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Inside ruined Jenin
18 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin camp 'horrific beyond belief'
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