Israel Orders 15 Palestinians Out

Palestinians chant anti-Israeli slogans during a solidarity demonstration with Rafah residents, in front of United Nation headquarters in Gaza City, Tuesday Oct. 14, 2003. Israeli troops backed by attack helicopters and tanks searched for smuggling tunnels in the refugee camp on the Egyptian border Tuesday, the second large-scale raid there in less than a week.
The Israeli military on Tuesday ordered 15 Palestinian detainees expelled from the West Bank, a decision unprecedented in scope, as troops backed by attack helicopters and tanks searched for smuggling tunnels in a Gaza refugee camp.

An army statement said members of the group have 48 hours to appeal the decision, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have protested the move, saying it is a violation of international law. Israel says the men were involved in terrorist activity, but it could not put them on trial without revealing sensitive intelligence information.

Six Palestinians were hurt by army fire in the Rafah refugee camp, target of a large-scale army raid for the second time in less than a week.

A senior Israel officer told Army Radio that this new stage of the operation could last several days. The officer added that there were 12 known tunnels in operation.

The operation is known as "Root Canal 2."

Also Tuesday, Yasser Arafat and Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres lent their qualified support to a symbolic peace treaty drawn up by former Israeli and Palestinian government officials and veteran negotiators. Israeli government officials and Palestinian refugee leaders blasted the 50-page document as irresponsible.

A 20-year-old Palestinian woman was arrested Tuesday at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem after border police found a handgun, two clips of ammunition and a knife hidden in the baby carriage she was pushing. There was no baby aboard. She said she had no idea the weapons were in the carriage, reports Haaretz newspaper.

Police on Tuesday discovered a bomb lab run by an Israeli man and are investigating whether he sold explosives to Palestinian militants.

Police found explosives, ready-to-use bombs, Israeli and Russian army uniforms, police uniforms and bomb detonators in a Jerusalem apartment, said the city police spokesman, Shmulik Ben-Ruby said.

Daniel Reisner, the head of the military's legal department, said most of those Palestinian detainees were members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups, and were suspected of being accomplices in attacks on Israelis.

The military said the 15 were not directly involved in such attacks and did "not have blood on their hands."

The military has issued such expulsion orders only once before, when it moved three relatives of Palestinian terror suspects from the West Bank to Gaza last year in hopes of deterring future attacks on Israelis.

Israel's Supreme Court later approved the practice, which has been denounced by human rights lawyers as a violation of international law.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said the expulsion orders were part of increasingly tough measures by Israel.

"It's a very dangerous step," Erekat said. "This is not an act of self-defense. This is an act that deserves the condemnation of the United States, the European Union and other members of the international community."

In the Rafah raid, army bulldozers razed four homes, while troops took over several buildings and snipers set up positions on three rooftops, said resident Mohammed Zoarub, 35, and other witnesses.

At the start of the pre-dawn operation, helicopters fired toward the camp to clear the way for two columns of armored vehicles, witnesses said.

Soldiers were searching for more smuggling tunnels. Three tunnels were blown up in a previous three-day operation that ended Sunday.

In the first raid, eight Palestinians, including two children, were killed by Israeli gunfire in fierce exchanges. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that 114 homes were destroyed in that operation, leaving 1,240 people homeless. The army said about 30 buildings were knocked down.

Col. Eyal Eisenberg denied Israeli troops were being heavy-handed.

"I want people to ask how many houses we have not demolished," he told Army Radio, "not how many we have. I believe that the [Israeli Defense Force's] actions have been entirely moral, and that our behavior has been above and beyond that of any other army in the world."

Arafat, meanwhile, expressed guarded support for the unofficial peace deal, but did not comment on specifics and noted it has no formal standing. "Our policy is not to undercut any attempt to reach the peace of the brave," Arafat said.

Peres said the detailed agreement could serve as a basis for future talks.

However, officials in Israel's hardline government and representatives of Palestinian refugees blasted the agreement as irresponsible.

Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister who led the Israeli delegation, brushed off the Israeli and Palestinian criticism that the accord was hampering peace efforts.

"This is foolishness and nonsense," he said. "For three years, Sharon has been babbling on about his wanting peace — and he doesn't do anything."

The agreement, complete with a map of a future Palestine, gives the Palestinians a state in virtually all of the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and divides Jerusalem, but keeps most war refugees out of Israel.

It was put together by prominent Israelis and Palestinians, including former Cabinet ministers and legislators, and is to be signed next month in Geneva.