Israeli Army Leaves West Bank City

Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 6:37 am
By: News On 6

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) _ The Israeli army pulled its troops and armored vehicles out of the West Bank city of Nablus early Tuesday after a three-day operation targeting Palestinians militants, Palestinians said.

No Israeli forces were visible in Nablus at dawn Tuesday. But the army did not confirm the end of the raid _ the largest military operation in the West Bank in months _ which left tens of thousands of residents in the city's center confined to their homes while troops combed houses and alleys for wanted men.

Adli Yaish, the mayor of Nablus, said the Israeli forces were gone and called on residents to resume their normal lives.

``We have to continue living,'' Yaish said, urging students and teachers to attend school Tuesday. Municipal workers already had begun cleaning the streets in the raid's aftermath, Yaish said.

But Nablus district governor Kamal Sheikh said he feared the army had only briefly halted the operation and that it would soon resume.

``I think the Israeli military action is not over,'' Sheikh said.

One Palestinian, a 42-year-old man, was killed in the operation. The army said he was killed Monday when troops fired at figures moving on the roof of a building where they had seen gunmen and where they later found a weapon. Palestinians said he was unarmed and was shot from a passing jeep.

The army said the Nablus raid was necessary because most of the suicide bombers trying to enter Israel from the West Bank come from the city. Troops arrested five wanted militants and uncovered workshops used to manufacture explosive devices and bomb belts, as well as a studio where suicide bombers recorded their farewell statements, the army said.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the offensive would ``undermine the efforts'' by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to maintain a cease-fire with Israel. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas condemned ``the criminal Israeli assault on Nablus,'' saying it was designed to undermine Palestinian efforts to form a coalition government.