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Sunday, 17 November, 2002, 09:10 GMT
Israel tightens grip on Hebron
Palestinian family questioned by Israeli soldiers
Israeli troops are searching homes in Hebron
Israeli troops have arrested dozens of Palestinians and taken control of strategic buildings in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The military operation follows the deaths of 12 Israelis in a double ambush by Palestinian militants on Friday.

As Israel considers a further response to the killings, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called - on a tour of Hebron on Sunday morning - for the expansion of Israeli-administered territory in the city.

Israel Radio quoted him as saying that the government should establish territorial continuity between the settlement of Kiryat Arba, on the eastern fringe of the city, and small Jewish communities around the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

About 450 Jewish settlers live alongside 130,000 Palestinians
Divided into Israeli and Palestinian-controlled sectors under an interim peace deal in 1997
Frequent scene of violent clashes because of its religious significance
He earlier gave the green light for the army to increase pressure on the Palestinian territories, the radio reported.

The decision reportedly came after Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz met army commanders to discuss possible retaliation.

The government is expected to propose further action at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Early on Sunday, Israeli helicopters carried out a raid on Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, destroying a metal workshop.

The army said the workshop had been used to manufacture weapons for Palestinian militants.

Suspects blindfolded

Israeli forces were tightening their grip on Hebron on Sunday, arresting suspected militants and the relatives of the three members of Islamic Jihad who were killed after carrying out Friday's attack.

Those arrested were blindfolded and taken away on buses. Several homes were destroyed and an olive grove in which the gunmen had hidden was uprooted.

A BBC correspondent says that, with elections looming, the Israeli Government is under pressure to react strongly to the Hebron attack.

The Israeli victims were three settlers and nine security force members.

The settlers had been ambushed while returning to Kiryat Arba settlement after Sabbath prayers at Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs and a second ambush caught security forces who came to their aid.

Among the Israeli dead was Colonel Dror Weinberg, the army commander for the Hebron area. He is the most senior Israeli officer to be killed during the intifada, according to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper.

"There was gunfire from left and right, from every possible angle, they were shooting at us from above," a witness who gave his name as Arik, told army radio. "The group of Jews were slaughtered."

It was the deadliest attack on Israelis since 21 October when 14 people were killed in a bus bombing in northern Israel.

Islamic Jihad
Founded in the 1970s by three Palestinian students
Made up of loosely affiliated factions divided up into cells
Focuses on military assaults and strikes against Israel

Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said the Palestinian Authority ought to be dismantled in the wake of the attack.

"We need not only catch the mosquitoes but to dry up the swamp," he said.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman told al-Jazeera television the attack was in retaliation for Israel's killing last week of one of its members, Iyad Sawalha, blamed by Israel for two suicide bomb attacks which killed 31 Israelis.

In another incident, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian activist during a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin on Saturday.

Palestinian radio said Mahmud Abbas Ubayd was killed as tanks and military vehicles entered Jenin.

Israeli army sources said he was a member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah group.

The BBC's James Rodgers reports from Jerusalem
"Israel remains determined to cripple the capabilities of its enemies"
Raanan Gissin, Ariel Sharon's spokesman
"We are talking about Jewish property"

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