In response to the assassination of rightwing Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi Israeli forces entered El Bireh, Jenin and Al-Azeria east of Jerusalem, taking control of the areas and declaring curfews and assassinated Fatah activist Atef Abayat. The military operations may spread to additional areas.
Israel blockaded the West Bank town of Nablus on Thursday afternoon, hours after entering the Palestinian-controlled towns of Jenin and Ramallah. Military sources said that similar actions were expected in the coming hours with regard to other towns in the northern section of the West Bank.
Three Palestinians were killed during the Ramallah and Jenin incursions. Palestinian sources said that a PA policeman and Force 17 member were killed in Ramallah. They also said that a ten-year-old Palestinian girl was killed as a result of Israeli gunfire on a school in Jenin. Four other girls and three adults were injured. No Israeli injuries have been reported and loss of life has been limited due to restraint exercised by Palestinian Security Forces who this morning were ordered by the Palestinian Authority not to fire upon the Israeli forces.
At least 10 tanks entered the northeastern neighborhood of El Bireh in Ramallah at 4:00 AM, and took positions near the house of Abu Mazen, deputy to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Some of the tanks are in positions between homes in the neighborhood. Israeli troops also entered the outskirts of Jenin early Thursday morning. Senior PA officials and witnesses said that eight tanks entered the Palestinian controlled city from the south, and advanced 4 kilometers into the area. Jenin residents said they had heard shots fired.
In Jenin Israeli forces invaded and retook the positions that they took over during their September 11th invasion of the city. The areas of the city controlled by Israeli forces have been put under curfew. Shortly before 7:30 this morning students from the Ibrahimeen Primary School in Jenin began to arrive at the school. As they waited for classes to begin, the students played on the school’s playground. At 7:30 Israeli tanks located nearby began to shell the surrounding neighborhood. One of the tank shells landed inside the school compound and exploded. Reham Ibrahim Nabil Ward (12) was struck by shrapnel in the chest and died instantly. Another four students and one teacher were wounded by shrapnel. One of these students, Tahreer Shawkat Manasreh (12), was struck in the head and is in critical condition. She has been transferred to the Nablus Hospital for treatment. However, an ambulance dispatched to the school to assist those wounded was unable to reach the school until 8:30 am due to intensive shelling in the area.
Around 3:00 am this morning, Israeli forces also entered approximately 500 meters into El Bireh largely unopposed. Between 7:00 and 8:00 this morning, a small group of Palestinian gunmen began shooting sporadically at the Israeli soldiers against the orders of the Palestinian Authority. Testimonies gathered from some of the men involved in the shooting indicates that at approximately 8:00 am Marwan Ibrahim Khalifa (24) was killed during an exchange of fire with the Israeli forces. Marwan was a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces, but was not in uniform or on duty.
The invaded area has been placed under curfew, and one of the tanks has been place in front of the Khaled surgery Hospital. Patients and ambulances are not currently being allowed to reach the hospital.
Israeli forces also entered the al-Iskan neighborhood of Al-Azeria, which is located east of Jerusalem. This area of the village has been placed under curfew, and Israeli police and military personnel carefully searched the area arrested several individuals suspected as members of the PFLP.
On the afternoon Israel killed Atef Abayat, was killed Thursday afternoon in a car bomb explosion between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the nearby town of Beit Sahur. Two other Palestinians, also members of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party, were also killed in the blast.
A short while after the news of Abayat’s death, shots were fired at the neighborhood of Gilo in Jerusalem. Several houses were damaged, but there were no injuries. Israeli Security forces said that the neighborhood had been placed on alert for the possibility of mortar attacks.
Abayat’s name was on a list of militants Israel had handed to the Palestinian Authority, with a demand that they be arrested. So far, the PA has not complied. Israeli Minister of Internal Security, Uzi Landau, said to Israel channel 2 news that all the persons in list will be executed by Israel.
The PFLP, in a communiqué published on 18 October, said that “the operation of the military wing of the PFLP is a natural reaction to the continuous crimes of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people.”