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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Israeli probe reveals 'intelligence failure'
Palestinian suspects in Nablus
Israel says the Nablus operation is aimed at Hamas
The Israeli army has said faulty intelligence led to the deaths of civilians when it bombed a building in Gaza last month, killing a leading member of the militant group Hamas and 14 others, including nine children.

In a statement, the army said it regretted the civilian deaths and that the timing of the operation against Salah Shehada or its method would have been changed if it had known that women and children were in the building.


The inquiry found lapses in the information and assessments regarding the proximity of innocent people to Salah Shehada

Israeli army statement
At the time there was international criticism of the Israeli attack, with US President George W Bush describing it as heavy-handed and inconsistent with the desire for peace in the Middle East.

Earlier on Friday, the army stormed into the West Bank city of Nablus, declaring it a closed military zone and rounding up Palestinian men in what it said was an operation against Hamas.

Two Palestinians were killed as soldiers, backed by more than 100 tanks, poured into the city.

The army also said it had destroyed two buildings it described as bomb-making factories during the raid.

The incursion came in response to Wednesday's bomb attack on a Jerusalem university, which killed seven people including five US nationals.

Hamas, who claimed the Jerusalem attack, said it was in retaliation for the deaths in Gaza.

Casualty fears

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem says the Israeli army had Shehada in its sights a long time before it sent an F16 into Gaza to kill him.

It says several previous operations against the militant had been called off because of fears of civilian casualties.

Lapses in information about civilians in the area were cited, however, although the army said "operational lessons" had been drawn which would prevent similar incidents from occurring.

The results of the investigation have now been given to Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer for consideration.

Workshop

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke, who is in Nablus, says the whole city is under Israeli control and the Casbah, or Old City, appears to be the focus of current operations.


Population: 150,000 (32,000 refugees)
Israel says: "Nablus is focus of activity of terror group"
Israeli incursions: 3 April (19 days), May (several short incursions), 21 June (40 days approx), 1 August

Israel's internal security service is reported to believe that the university bomb was prepared in a workshop there.

Soldiers are reported to be carrying out house-to-house searches in the narrow alleyways of the old quarter, smashing through connecting walls to avoid exposing themselves to Palestinian fighters in the streets.

Israeli forces also went into the neighbouring village of Salem and shot dead a member of Hamas.

In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian was reportedly killed in a gun battle with Israeli troops at Rafah near the border with Egypt.

An elderly Palestinian woman was also killed on Friday by Israeli fire near the Kissufim crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. The army said it was looking into the incident.

Expulsions and demolitions

As part of the continuing crackdown on militants, Israel's attorney general has approved the expulsion from the West Bank to Gaza of two relatives of Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israeli civilians.

Israel says the men facing expulsion - Gaza Kifah Adjuri, 28, from Askar refugee camp, and Abdel Nasser Assidi, 34, from the village of Tel - knew about the planned attacks but did nothing to prevent them.

Lawyers for the men told Reuters news agency they would appeal against the order to a military court sitting later on Friday. They can also appeal to Israel's Supreme Court.

Israel is also implementing its new policy of destroying homes belonging to the families of suicide bombers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Jeremy Cooke reports from Nablus
"This was a massive show of force"
Arthur Lenk, Israeli Foreign Ministry official
"Until the Palestinians reject terror and act against it Israel is going to have to defend itself"

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01 Aug 02 | Middle East
01 Aug 02 | Middle East
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