Beliefnet
JERUSALEM, Nov. 1 (AP)--Three Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday in two clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank, the military said, the first soldiers to die in combat since a battle in Nablus Oct. 1. Six Palestinians were also killed.

At least 160 people, most of them Palestinians, have died in clashes over the past five weeks. The only other Israeli combat death was a soldier who died during a Palestinian siege of a Jewish holy site in Nablus on Oct. 1. There, a wounded paramilitary border policeman bled to death before he could be removed. Israel later evacuated the site.

Two Israeli reserve soldiers were brutally killed by an enraged Palestinian mob Oct. 12 after the soldiers took a wrong turn and entered the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The military has predicted the fighting could go on for months and could escalate, and a senior military official said Israel was calling up its army reserves.

About 1,000 reservists have been activated already, and by the beginning of December, all the reserve forces will be called up to serve stints in the West Bank and Gaza, said the official, who insisted on anonymity.

The fighting in Al Khader began when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops posted nearby, the Israeli army said.

Palestinian fire prevented Israeli medics from reaching the troops, prompting the army to bring in two helicopter gunships that raked the village with machine gun fire. The soldiers were evacuated after nearly an hour and taken to a Jerusalem hospital.

Scores of Al Khader residents, trapped on the main road during the shooting, huddled close to a cement wall, and one man sought cover under a car. A Palestinian boy, about 12 or 13 years old, screamed in panic when he heard a helicopter gunship approach.

Bullets also sprayed the entrance to the Yamamah Hospital on the outskirts of Al Khader. An injured Palestinian brought to the clinic's door in a private car crawled out of the vehicle as those accompanying him ran for cover. The injured man collapsed from the effort, and eventually was carried to safety indoors.

Palestinian gunmen also attacked the Gilo neighborhood on the southern edge of Jerusalem from positions in the adjacent West Bank town of Beit Jalla. The gunmen hit several homes and a kindergarten, with one youngster and several adults still inside. There were no reports of injuries.

Israel responded with machine gun fire from the ground and from helicopters. Troops also fired several anti-tank missiles at Beit Jalla. The fighting lasted for more than three hours.

In the Gaza Strip, more than 20,000 Palestinians joined a funeral for five of seven Palestinians killed in the past two days at the Karni crossing. "Goodbye, martyrs, we will meet in paradise," the crowd chanted. "We will take revenge against the Israelis, and this will happen soon."

Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat was to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Friday. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami was meeting Albright Wednesday.

Erekat said he was carrying letters from Arafat to Annan and Clinton with a request that the United Nations send a force to protect Palestinian civilians, and for the establishment of an international inquiry into the causes of the violence.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, has criticized the Palestinian demand for U.N. protection, saying it was "written as an attack on one side," meaning Israel.

Israel has rejected calls for an international inquiry, fearing bias. Instead, Israel suggested that the United States conduct an investigation.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus