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At Least 17 Palestinians Killed as Israel Retaliates
SERGE SCHMEMANN . NY Times . 4 march 2002

Palestinians and Israelis mourned separately today as Israel, still burying its dead from the weekend's carnage, unleashed its anger at Palestinians.

RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 4 — Still burying its dead from the weekend's violence, Israel unleashed its anger at Palestinians throughout their territories today, including rockets fired near Yasir Arafat's headquarters here. One shell ripped into a pickup truck in Ramallah, killing a woman and her children before the eyes of passing schoolchildren.

In all, at least 17 Palestinians were killed, many of them children and civilians, after a weekend in which 22 Israelis were killed, many of them also children and civilians. From both sides came ever louder vows of vengeance and violence.

"If the Palestinians are not being beaten, there will be negotiations," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters at the Parliament. "The aim is to increase the number of losses on the other side. Only after they've been battered, we will be able to conduct talks." And to a special session of the Parliament, he said: "We are in a bitter war against a cruel and bloodthirsty enemy. We are fighting for our home, and we will prevail."

From Gaza, the leader of the militant Islamic movement Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, appeared on Arabic television to warn: "The Zionist enemy will learn what is the price of aggression against our people."

Throughout the day, there was no respite from the reports of clashes. In the early morning, Israeli soldiers raided the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Later in the day, soldiers backed by tanks and helicopters battled back into the refugee camp in Jenin, where the Israelis opened fire on an ambulance and killed the head of local emergency services.

Shortly after noon, the tank shell slammed into the truck in Ramallah. Then, in the evening, American-supplied F-16 jet fighters and Apache attack helicopters struck in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron. Huge explosions from the F-16 strikes on Bethlehem rattled windows and set off car alarms in Jerusalem, and soon the Israeli army reported that it had struck the British-era police headquarters south of the town — just as the Israelis earlier struck the equivalent buildings in the West Bank towns of Tulkarem, Jenin and Nablus. In Hebron, witnesses reported Apache strikes this evening on the police headquarters there.

At the Ramallah compound of Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader, a man who answered the phone at 9:45 p.m. shouted: "We are under Apache strikes. We are O.K. They are so close, but we do not know exactly where." Then he hung up. Mr. Arafat has been restricted to Ramallah for more than two months, though Mr. Sharon has declared that he does not intend to kill him.

The strikes on police headquarters in Palestinian areas had been anticipated, since the Israelis had signaled their intention of turning their guns on Palestinian police after the attacks on Israeli roadblocks, and they were likely evacuated before the strikes. Most Palestinian police had also taken off their uniforms and had stopped manning roadblocks in their territories.

In Ramallah, there were no men in uniform to be seen around the torn and bloodied carcass of the extended-cab truck, though many were armed. People milling around the blackened wreck, whose deflated air bags and carpets were still caked with blood, said it had belonged to a spokesman for Hamas in Ramallah, Hussein Abu Kwaik.

He was not in the vehicle, which was being used by his wife to pick up her three children from school. But he was not in the vehicle, which was being used by his wife to pick up her children from school. Some accounts said there were three children, some two, some that the woman's sister was also in the truck. A passing car was also mangled by the blast, killing the driver and his son.

The Israeli army said it had fired a tank shell at what it believed was a carload of armed Palestinians, and expressed "deep regret" over the death of civilians.

Mr. Abu Kwaik later appeared on Palestinian television, clad in a green Hamas cap and a green Hamas scarf. "The missile that was fired at my car hit it just as my wife picked up my daughters from school," he said, his face fixed in a severe expression. "The great Allah says that when people die in the name of God, do not call them dead, because they remain alive, though you cannot feel them."