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Israeli Military Operation Leaves Destruction, Anger

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Israeli Military Operation Leaves Destruction, Anger

Middle East

Israeli Military Operation Leaves Destruction, Anger

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Today, the Israeli army pulled most of its troops and armored vehicles out of the West Bank city of Nablus. They had been there for three days, targeting Palestinian militants. The mayor of Nablus called on residents to resume normal lives, as municipal workers began clearing the streets of broken glass and debris.

From Nablus, NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

LINDA GRADSTEIN: The children's bedroom in Hanaan Hafez's(ph) house in the old city of Nablus looks like a kid's room anywhere. The closets are covered with stickers and posters, and a ratty blue stuffed dog lies on one of the beds. But the windows of this bedroom were shattered on Sunday when Israeli soldiers who surrounded the old city began shooting at Palestinian stone throwers. A bullet pierced the light fixture above the bed. Hanaan says she rushed into the street.

Ms. HANAAN HAFEZ: (Through translator) I didn't care about the house. I only cared about my children. I became emotional. I wanted to go and get them from the school, but it was very difficult because the soldiers were standing in the way.

GRADSTEIN: For two days, 30,000 Palestinians in the old city were under curfew. Yesterday, more than a dozen soldiers burst into Hanaan's house and ordered the family into on small room. Hanaan says they took everyone's identity card and then turned the house upside down. The Israeli army briefly took over local radio and television stations and broadcast names and pictures of men Israel says were involved in attacks against Israelis. Hanaan says even if she knew any of these men, she wouldn't turn them in.

Ms. HAFEZ: (Through translator) These are our brothers. They are the children of our neighborhood. We have to protect them. We cannot tell the soldiers about them.

GRADSTEIN: Down the street, Safra Tufaja(ph) says she felt helpless when more than a dozen soldiers with a sniffer dog entered her house. They detained two of her sons and took them out of the city. Both were held over night for questioning and then released.

Ms. SAFRA TUFAJA: (Through translator) I can only report my grief to God. I can do nothing. None of us can do anything.

GRADSTEIN: Brigadier General Yair Golan, the Israeli army commander in the West Bank, said Israel forwarded 190 would-be suicide bombers last year, and two-thirds of them came from Nablus. He said Palestinian weapons factories here supplied most of the explosives used in attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. During the operation in Nablus, troops arrested five wanted men and uncovered three bomb-making workshops. One Palestinian man was killed during the operation.

The army said he died when troops fired at figures moving on the roof of the building where they had seen gunmen. Palestinians said the victim was unarmed and was shot from a passing jeep. Both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups charged that Israel obstructed Palestinian's access to medical care during the operation. Dr. Mas Hardar Wasa(ph), the director of Rafidia Hospital, says soldiers surrounded the hospital and checked every ambulance coming into the facility, looking for wanted men.

Dr. MAS HARDAR WASA (Director, Rafidia Hospital, Nablus): This is very bad. It is very bad, and this is difficult for us, because we know that we have here some victims, some injured patient in the whole city, and they cannot come to us. It is too hard to see that.

GRADSTEIN: General Golan said that ambulances have been used in the past to smuggle weapons and wanted men. He said soldiers stationed outside hospitals conducted brief identity checks, but that Israel tried to ensure medical access for everyone. He also said the security operation will continue, and troops could return to Nablus at any time.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Nablus.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Coming up on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: the return of professional women's soccer in America, and the last big show for oddities at the American Dime Museum. That's coming up.

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