Bethlehem, Nov. 22 (Reuters): Israeli forces took over Bethlehem today after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people on a bus, and an Irish UN worker was killed in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Palestinian doctors said initial reports suggested the man was in his office when he was hit by gunfire after a gun battle broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin refugee camp. It was not immediately clear who fired the bullet.
A Reuters cameraman saw the dead body of the man, described by doctors as the senior representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Jenin. Officials from the agency, whose main headquarters is in the Gaza Strip, confirmed that an international staff member had been shot dead.
The death is likely to intensify international pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to end two years of conflict.
Also in Jenin, Israeli gunfire killed a 10-year-old boy, Palestinian doctors said.
The army did not immediately confirm the death. Troops swept into Bethlehem in the West Bank before dawn and fanned across the city.
Soldiers began arresting suspected militants and sealed off the Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus, to prevent any militants taking refuge in the church compound as they did during an Israeli incursion in April.
“We are currently controlling the whole city,” a local military commander said. The army said troops were searching for 30 militants involved in yesterday’s bombing on a packed Jerusalem bus or planning other attacks.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, facing a leadership challenge from hardline foreign minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sent the troops into the city just south of Jerusalem following heavy pressure to hit back hard for yesterday’s suicide bombing.
But his response is likely to be tempered by calls for restraint by the US.