02/07/2004 Israel Defense Forces troops before dawn Friday discovered and safely defused a large bomb in the West Bank city of Ramallah that had apparently been intended for use in a terror attack, possibly in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported. The troops exchanged fire with Palestinian militants in Ramallah, wounding at least two of them, according to the report. They also arrested four people affiliated with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, including a man suspected of planning to carry out an attack in Jerusalem. The forces then left the city. IDF troops also arrested three Palestinian suspects in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah, the radio said Friday. Nine Palestinians killed in Gaza On Thursday, the IDF killed eight Palestinians and wounded 21 in two separate incidents in the northern Gaza Strip, and a 9-year-old Palestinian boy was killed, apparently by IDF fire, in another incident near Rafah. In the course of the day, soldiers located a weapons-smuggling tunnel in the Brazil section of the Rafah refugee camp and foiled an attempted attack on Netzarim junction. In a wide-ranging operation in Jericho, the IDF arrested over 30 Palestinians before dawn, including several wanted men.
Soldiers from the Shimshon battalion, who had set up an ambush inside a Palestinian house at the southern outskirts of Gaza’s Zeitoun neighborhood, close to the Netzarim junction, spotted three gunman advancing toward the junction in the afternoon. The soldiers opened fire, killing one of the gunmen. Other armed Palestinians arrived on the scene and began shooting at the house. The soldiers returned fire and called for armored forces to get them out and help in the battle. Another four armed Palestinians were killed in the shootout. Earlier in the region, the IDF arrested three unarmed Palestinians identified as an observation and reconnaissance team for the armed unit. The three were handed over for interrogation by the Shin Bet security services. Sources in the IDF’s Southern Command told Haaretz that the armed men apparently intended to advance toward Netzarim junction and carry out an attack against IDF forces in the area or against Israeli civilians moving along the Netzarim road. Other soldiers operating in the Brazil section of Rafah found the opening of a weapons-smuggling tunnel and blasted the tunnel shut. The IDF and Border Police troops who took part in the tunnel search entered Rafah in the morning following intelligence reports indicating a tunnel whose opening was dug between abandoned Palestinian shops in the refugee camp. The troops were targeted by gunfire and an anti-tank missile. They returned fire at several armed targets and also at a wall to deter people from approaching. A 9-year-old boy was killed in the crossfire, according to Palestinian reports. The IDF, as of Thursday evening, could not identify the incident in which the boy was killed. Southern Command sources said that they received no information about the boy except from the media, but army officials did not deny the incident and said that an inquiry into the matter will continue. Beit Hanun operation in fourth day Meanwhile, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, Operation Front Shield entered its fourth day, during which three Palestinians were killed while engaging in terrorist activity, according to the IDF. Around noon, air force helicopters fired at a Palestinian unit that was trying to set up Qassam launchers in the area. A short while later, the helicopters fired at another Palestinian who was attempting to launch Qassam rockets. In another instance, ground forces fired at a roof on which anti-tank missile launchers were spotted. Ismail Nabhan, 30, an armed Hamas member from Jabalya, was shot by IDF troops before dawn. The operation is intended to push Qassam rocket-fire out of Sderot’s range, after rockets killed two Israelis and injured a third early this week. Tanks and armored troop carriers surrounded the town, entrances to which have been blocked by steep dirt mounds. Bulldozers continue to uproot orchards and crops in open spaces near the town which, according to the IDF, serve as Qassam launching pads. Despite the large force deployment – the Givati brigade’s reconnaissance battalion, a battalion from the squad-commander’s school, the 603rd engineers corps battalion, and the 82nd armored battalion – there have been relatively few Palestinian casualties during the operation. Eleven Palestinians – seven of them armed – were wounded by IDF fire Thursday. The IDF reported that all Palestinian casualties in this operation were armed. According to Southern Command sources, the army is trying to minimize casualties among innocent bystanders and even armed combatants who do not endanger the troops, in order to create „industrial quiet” and „media quiet” surrounding the operation so it can continue at length. „We are scheduled to remain in the area for many weeks,” the sources said. „That is also the directive received today from Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz who visited the northern brigade headquarters and met with commanders of the operation.” In a wide-scale operation that began before dawn Thursday in Jericho, the IDF arrested more than 30 Palestinians throughout the city. According to Palestinian sources, a large deployment of infantry and armored forces raided several sites that are home to suspected Palestinian gunmen and picked up Abdelfatah Dola of Ramallah, who was involved in the murder of teenage Ophir Rahum, and also Ziad Bazar and Ali Sudani of the Palestinian General Intelligence, suspected of shooting attacks on Israelis in the occupied territories. Two homes were blown up in the course of the operation, that also yielded various materiel in a widescale search of homes and mosques.