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Israeli army blows up Palestinian broadcasting center

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli soldiers used explosives to blow up the building housing the headquarters of the Voice of Palestine radio service and some Palestinian television studio facilities early Saturday, eyewitnesses told CNN.

The building burned in the early morning, surrounded by Israeli tanks. The military's usual practice is to flatten structures with bulldozers.

Earlier, Palestinian security sources said everyone inside the center was evacuated.

It was the latest action by Israel to step up pressure on the Palestinian Authority after a Palestinian gunman killed six Israelis in Hadera Thursday night.

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The Israel Defense Forces would not comment on the action.

Twenty Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers moved to within about 150 feet of Arafat's offices Friday -- a move that led to clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian demonstrators. One Palestinian was killed and more than 30 others injured, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

The demonstrators threw stones at the Israeli forces, which responded by firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Jets fire on compound

Before that incident, Israeli F-16 fighter jets fired seven missiles into the compound of the Palestinian governor of Tulkarem. One Palestinian policeman was killed and more than 50 other people were wounded, said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. The missiles destroyed the headquarters of the Palestinian security force, which is at the compound, he said

The Palestinian Authority condemned the action, saying it "will only lead to a serious deterioration and escalation" of the situation in the region.

"The Palestinian leadership considers this aggression and this threat as unprecedented. It's a threat and an aggression against the Palestinian leadership, and it aims to undermine all the efforts to cool things down," the Palestinian Authority said in a statement.

The statement also said that the Palestinian leadership remains committed "to its choice that peaceful negotiations is the right path (to a resolution), and it has exerted maximum efforts to enforce and implement a cease-fire."

"This Israeli aggression is not going to bring Israelis any security, and it will only lead to a serious deterioration and escalation," the statement said.

Attack at bat mitzvah

Israel said its troops were acting in response to a terrorist attack carried out by a Palestinian militant late Thursday, in which six Israelis were killed and more than 20 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at a bat mitzvah gathering.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the Hadera attack.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, but the Israeli government said Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were responsible.

Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, blamed Arafat for the attack.

"This just corroborates what we have been saying all along: that Arafat does not take any measure whatsoever in order to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure," Gissin said. "Despite all the declarations and despite all the attempts to convince the world that he's fighting terror, Arafat has done nothing."

When Arafat wants the terror to stop, it stops, Gissin said. "Arafat has full control. He just doesn't want to act," said Gissin.

'Horrific act'

The Bush administration condemned the Hadera attack "in the strongest possible terms," calling it a "horrific act of terrorism." The State Department called on Arafat to act against terror.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said Thursday's attack was a response to the death Monday of popular Fatah leader Raed al-Karmi. An explosion killed Karmi as he was walking by a cemetery. The Al Aqsa Brigades accused Israel of assassinating him. Israel has not confirmed nor denied its involvement in Karmi's death.

The Al Aqsa Brigades identified the Hadera attacker as Abed Hassouneh of Nablus. He was killed by police as guests at the bat mitzvah pushed him out into the street as he fired his weapon.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has called for renewed attacks on Israel because of Karmi's death and the arrest of Ahmad Sa'adat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Four Israelis have been shot dead on the West Bank since Karmi was killed on Monday. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli soldier Monday afternoon. Israeli authorities said the group is suspected in the deaths of two Israelis Tuesday and an Israeli Arab resident of Jerusalem on Wednesday.


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