New restraint policy minimizes Palestinian casualties.
By YAAKOV KATZPublished: MARCH 2, 2007 00:51Advertisement
Operation Hot Winter in Nablus came to an end Thursday night as hundreds of IDF soldiers withdrew from the West Bank terror stronghold following a week of arrest raids that succeeded, according to high-ranking officers, in "dealing a heavy blow to terror infrastructure" in the city.
Five battalions - from the Golani, Nahal and Kfir Brigades and the Border Police - participated in the week-long operation launched Sunday morning with the aim of destroying Islamic Jihad and Fatah terror infrastructure in the city.
During the operation, nine wanted terrorists were arrested and four explosives labs were discovered and destroyed. The operation focused on the Casbah - Nablus's Old City - from where Islamic Jihad and Fatah direct their attacks against Israel. Throughout the week, thousands of residents had been confined to their homes under an IDF-imposed curfew.
A top officer in the Judea and Samaria Division said that the operation - the largest military operation in the West Bank since July - "dealt a heavy blow" to the terror infrastructure in Nablus and succeeded in removing all of the terror alerts originating in the city.
Troops raiding the outlying al-Faraa refugee camp at dawn Thursday traded shots with three Palestinians holed up in a mosque there, the army and Palestinian officials said. The army said the three men fired at troops from inside the mosque, and that soldiers returned fire.
Explaining the relatively low number of Palestinian casualties - one Palestinian was killed and several others were wounded throughout the week - the officer said that the IDF employed a new "policy of restraint" when operating inside the city and did its best to avoid violent encounters with the civilian population. The officer also noted the relatively low level of resistance by Nablus residents to the operation, claiming that Palestinian civilians were also opposed to the terrorists who destabilized life within the city.
"The residents of Nablus suffer from the terrorists of Fatah and Islamic Jihad almost just as much as we do," he said, adding that the IDF tried to coordinate the operation with local Palestinian leaders and international organizations.
"The operation was also limited to the Casbah," the officer continued. "And when the average Nablus resident understands this, then the level of friction is relatively low."
Elsewhere, a settler from Tzufim, which overlooks the Palestinian city of Kalkilya, was shot and moderately wounded Thursday afternoon by Palestinian gunmen. The man, a 55-year-old farmer, sustained wounds to his shoulder. He was evacuated to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba for treatment.
The gunmen opened fire on him from their vehicle and immediately fled the scene.
AP contributed to the report.
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