JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces backed by tanks and combat
helicopters raided the West Bank town of Jenin yesterday, prompting
a gun battle that killed a Palestinian woman in her home,
Palestinian witnesses and military officials said.

Israeli forces entered Jenin in search of gunmen from the Al
Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a militant group linked to Yasser
Arafat’s Fatah movement. The sound of shooting echoed
throughout the town.

A 23-year-old Palestinian woman was killed in her home in the
fighting, Palestinian hospital officials said. The circumstances of
her death were not immediately known. An Agence France Presse
photographer was shot in the leg, the officials said.

Earlier yesterday, the army lifted a five-day closure it had
clamped on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the Jewish holiday of
Purim. Palestinian workers were permitted to enter Israel and the
Erez Industrial Zone in the Gaza Strip, the army said.

Israeli media reported that tensions between Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon and army chief Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon had risen due to
a disagreement over the Israeli leader’s plan to withdraw
from Gaza unilaterally.

Sharon and Yaalon both denied the reports. Top military
officials appear to have misgivings about the plan, which could
entail Israel evacuating most of its settlements in Gaza.

Mohammed Deif, the chief Hamas bombmaker who tops Israel’s
wanted list, said Hamas played a key role in forcing Israel to
consider leaving Gaza.

“The Israeli collapse is near, with God’s support.
It’s closer than they imagine. We will witness the victory
with our own eyes,” Deif said in an audio download from the
Hamas Web site. “Their criminal Sharon, who always refused
any peaceful solutions, saying they are treason against Israel, the
one who came to eliminate the resistance … he is the same
Sharon who has now decided on a total evacuation and full
withdrawal from Gaza,” Deif said.

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