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Israel strikes back after university bombing

The scene at Hebrew University after the bombing Wednesday.  

NABLUS, West Bank (CNN) -- Israel launched a military operation in Palestinian-controlled Nablus early Friday morning, moving into the West Bank city with more than 150 armored vehicles, Palestinian security sources told CNN.

At least one Palestinian was seriously wounded, and the Israeli army is not letting ambulances in or out of the city, the sources said.

Apache helicopter gunships, tanks, armored personnel carriers and bulldozers were part of the Israeli force, along with other helicopter gunships and surveillance helicopters, the sources said. Heavy machine-gun fire was reported on the outskirts of the city.

The Israelis entered the city from five different directions just before 2:30 a.m. (7:30 p.m. Thursday EDT) and reached the city center about a half hour later, the sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces had no immediate comment, but sources said Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had earlier approved military retaliation against Hamas targets in retaliation for Wednesday's bombing at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. The attack killed seven people, including five Americans. Just hours before the Israeli incursion, the bodies of two of the Americans killed in that attack started their final journey home.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a bomb in a handbag exploded in a cafeteria at Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus. Israeli police said Thursday they believe the bomb was a remote-controlled device, which was triggered by a cellular telephone.

The U.S. State Department has labeled Hamas a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, previously has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

FBI joins the probe

A senior Bush administration official told CNN that the FBI has opened an investigation into the Hebrew University attack and is "actively cooperating with the Israeli government."

President Bush on Thursday characterized the attack as "murder" and said he was "just as angry as Israel is. I am furious that innocent lives were lost.

"But even though I am mad, I still think peace is possible," he told reporters during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

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The bodies of Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, of Massachusetts, and Benjamin Blutstein, 25, of Pennsylvania, were put aboard an El Al jet headed for New York shortly after midnight (5 p.m. Thursday EDT) after a ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport.

"Their lives were a testimony to the values which are shared by both Israel and the United States -- lives of religious commitment and tolerance, the spirit of independent thinking and living, and love of one's fellow human beings," said Dan Kurtzer, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, at the airport ceremony. "Terrorists cannot live with or by those values -- and so they murder beautiful young people."

Michael Melchior, Israel's deputy foreign minister said, "They had a belief in Jerusalem, a belief in the future, and this is our commitment to them -- that there will come that day when their internal peace shall also be great peace for all the future."

"They are part of a collective memory but also part of a collective obligation, to life and to future. May their memory be holy."

The bodies, encased in wooden coffins covered with floral wreaths, are scheduled to arrive at John F. Kennedy airport just before 6 a.m. EDT Friday.

Coulter, the assistant director of graduate studies for Hebrew University's Rothberg International School in New York, was in Israel escorting U.S. students. Blutstein was scheduled to return home Thursday after completing two years of a program at the university to become a Jewish studies teacher, Kurtzer said.

The other three Americans killed were identified as Marla Bennett, 24, of San Diego; Dina Carter, 37, a resident of Jerusalem; and David Gritz, 24, who also had French citizenship and had recently lived in Paris.

The two Israelis killed were David Diego Ladowski, 29, and Levina Shapira, 53, both from Jerusalem, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.

Hamas said the bombing was in retaliation for last week's Israeli missile strike in Gaza that killed the commander of its military wing and 14 other people, nine of them children.

Wednesday night in refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians marched and cheered the cafeteria attack. However, the Palestinian Authority condemned it.

"We have to stop the cycle of violence through a meaningful peace process," said Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.


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