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Israeli troops attack Palestinian town

Israeli tanks in position near the town of Jenin.
Israeli tanks in position near the town of Jenin.  


JENIN, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli troops withdrew from the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin early Tuesday after an incursion a Palestinian diplomat warned would open "the gates of hell."

Israeli troops destroyed a Palestinian police post and surrounded the town governor's office during the raid, Palestinian security sources said. It was the first time the Israeli army has gone into an area of the West Bank under direct Palestinian control and taken over a main government building during the 10-month-old Israel-Palestinian struggle.

The Israelis withdrew from Jenin after less than four hours. Three Palestinians were wounded in the incursion, Palestinian sources told CNN.

The town's governor, Zuhair Manasra, told CNN that tanks came from three different directions and made their way to the town square in the center of the city. The soldiers stayed in the tanks and began bulldozing the police station, he said.

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For the first time since the start of the peace process, Israel deploys troops into Palestinian controlled areas. CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports (August 13)

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CNN's Mike Hanna says Israeli tanks have taken up positions and bulldozers destroyed a Palestinian police station (August 13)

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CNN's Ben Wedeman reports the ongoing Mideast conflict has many Palestinian communities feeling helpless and frustrated (August 13)

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CNN's Jerrold Kessel: "Jenin now quiet"
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Yaffa Ben-Ari, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman: "Stop terrorism, stop violence"
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Saeb Erakat, Palestinian Cabinet minister: "Breaking hell open"
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An Israeli government official confirmed to CNN that the tanks entered and withdrew from the town, but did not give any more detail. Previously, Israel has claimed that two recent Palestinian suicide bombers came from Jenin.

Israeli troops fought gun battles around the city during their incursion, particularly around the Jenin refugee camp, Manasra said.

Jenin has been under Palestinian control since October 1995, when it was handed over to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo peace agreement. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erakat called for the U.N. Security Council to intervene and warned that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was "opening the gates of hell" with Tuesday's incursion.

"What he began in Jerusalem two days ago ... is part of an endgame. The man is determined to end his life by ending the peace process," Erakat said.

"What do they want to do -- reoccupy Gaza and the West Bank?" he added. "They are breaking hell open in this region as of tonight."

Israeli troops moved into Jenin shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday (6 p.m. Monday EDT).

The Israelis' move into Jenin was the latest in a series of recent seizures of Palestinian Authority offices. Israeli officials said over the weekend that the seizures are designed to show the Palestinians they risk losing their past political gains if they continue to attack Israelis.

After a suicide bombing in Jerusalem killed 16 people, including the bomber, on Thursday, Israel seized Orient House -- the Palestine Liberation Organization's headquarters in East Jerusalem. On Monday, Jerusalem Police Chief Miki Levy said Israel's order to close Orient House would last six months.

Another bombing Sunday outside a cafe near Haifa killed the bomber and wounded 20 people.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank staged a general strike Monday, closing stores and offices in protest against Israel's takeover of the building.

On Monday, U.S. President George W. Bush said neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials were doing enough to end months of fighting in the region.

Bush indicated that Israel's policy of military responses to attacks on Israelis must stop to clear the way for a return to the Mideast peace process. But he singled out Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for particular criticism, saying Arafat "can do a lot more to be convincing to the people on the street to stop these acts of terrorism and these acts of violence."

"I've said in the Oval Office that it's very important for Mr. Arafat to show a 100 percent effort, do everything he can to convince the different parties on the West Bank and in Gaza to stop the violence," Bush said.

While Israeli troops gathered near Jenin, Israeli police fatally wounded a Palestinian man who they said was responsible for killing an Israeli settler last month. Palestinian security sources identified the man as Muhammad Abu Zeid, 23, from Qalandiya.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  

Israeli police said the man had killed Yuri Gushzin, a settler from Pisgat Zeev, on July 24. They said a special police unit identified the man's car just south of Ramallah, near Kufr Aqab.

Police began pursuit and fired warning shots in the air, but the man kept driving, authorities said. Then they shot at the car, seriously wounding the driver, who died while being taken to a hospital, police said.

Also Monday, Israel closed its Rafah border with Egypt, preventing Palestinians from entering and leaving Gaza, an Egyptian border official said. Tourists also were stopped from crossing the border, which is on the southeast corner of Gaza -- home to more than 1 million Palestinians.

Israeli authorities said the Rafah crossing was being fired on by Palestinian gunmen.

On Sunday, Sharon authorized Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to meet with Palestinian officials in hopes of securing a cease-fire. Israeli political sources told CNN that Sharon's approval does not include talks with Arafat, and that Peres must be accompanied by an Israeli general in any meeting.

CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna and CNN.com writer Matt Smith contributed to this report.






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