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An Israeli tank and armoured personnel carriers occupying the streets of the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Thursday. - AP
Five Palestinians were killed, including three gunmen and a church caretaker who, witnesses said, was shot while walking to the church from his home.
Part of "Operation Defensive Shield'' launched to crush Palestinian militias, the incursion into Nablus began late Wednesday, with dozens of tanks rolling into the city of 180,000 Palestinians. Gunmen took refuge in Nablus's Casbah, or old city, and in four adjacent refugee camps, where alleys are too narrow to allow tanks to enter. A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire when he opened a window in his apartment.
A resident of downtown Nablus said more than 80 armoured vehicles were deployed in and around the main square and soldiers had taken over high-rise buildings.
The heaviest fighting raged in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold. Israeli commandos moved from house to house, under fire cover from helicopters and tanks.
At a nearby army command centre, officers had an aerial photo of the camp pinned on the inside of a canvas tent. By Thursday morning, about 30 per cent of the homes had been marked as having been searched or taken over by troops.
In Bethlehem, army footage showed about a dozen gunmen surrendering, coming out of a house one at a time and holding rifles over their heads as several members of the International Committee of the Red Cross watched. Some soldiers looked down from tanks, while others grabbed the rifles from the men and lined them up on their knees. The Israeli President Moshe Katsav, said a fence should be built between Israel and the West Bank to stop suicide bombers. AP
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