HEBRON, West Bank (AP) – Israel’s military appealed to Jewish settler leaders Saturday to restrain vigilantes after an ambush by Islamic militants in a dead-end alley left 12 Israelis dead and 14 others wounded.

Troops backed by 10 tanks retook control of the divided city Saturday – blindfolding 43 Palestinian suspects and herding them into army buses – as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced growing pressure to strike back hard for what Israel calls a “Sabbath massacre.”

Two Palestinians were killed Saturday by army fire in the West Bank.

An army commander, Col. Noam Tibon, said there was concern that Jewish settlers from Hebron and the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba would strike back once the Sabbath ended at sundown Saturday. “This is a huge problem. We will do whatever we can to bring law and order,” Tibon said.

Settlers in Hebron and Kiryat Arba have a history of vigilantism against Palestinians, and Tibon met with settler leaders Saturday to urge restraint. However, settlers refused to call off a protest rally scheduled at the ambush site after sundown Saturday.

Israel’s retaliation was expected to focus on Hebron itself, and a Sharon adviser said there was no current plan to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – as has been demanded by several Cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Friday night’s ambush brought caused tensions in Hebron – home to 130,000 Palestinians and 450 Jewish settlers – to soar.

The attack began after Jewish worshippers, escorted by soldiers, finished Sabbath prayers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and were walking back to their settlement of Kiryat Arba, about a half mile away. The downtown Hebron shrine is revered by Muslims and Jews as the traditional burial place of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moments after soldiers were told the worshippers were escorted safely, shots burst from an olive grove and nearby Palestinian homes.

An army jeep chased the gunmen into a dead-end alley and was fired on from all directions, Tibon said. Four soldiers were killed.

Reinforcements also were shot and killed. They included the Hebron brigade commander, Col. Dror Weinberg, the highest-ranking Israeli officer shot dead in more than two years of Mideast violence.

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