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Mixed Messages From Sharon

Hours after sending tanks into a Palestinian city for the first time in years, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned Palestinians on Tuesday that they would "lose additional assets" if violence against Israel continues.

But Sharon also said he supported high-level talks to end more than 10 months of bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians provided all forms of violence end.

At the same time, the right-wing Israeli leader said he did not believe a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that erupted in late September would end in the near future.


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"Israel will not buy a cease-fire via political concessions. And even if Israel made all the concessions, according to our assessments, the terror would continue," he said.

After the Israeli assault on the West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinians appealed to the United Nations for international monitors in the Mideast, while radical Palestinian groups threatened more suicide bombings.

"If Sharon is going to escalate by invading cities, I believe that the Palestinians will escalate their resistance," said Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a leader of Hamas, the Islamic movement that has carried out the deadliest bomb attacks in Israel.

The raid marked the first time Israeli tanks entered a Palestinian-controlled city since Israel turned civilian control of West Bank cities to the Palestinians in 1995, a year after the Palestinian Authority was established according to interim peace agreements.

About 10 tanks and two bulldozers destroyed a small police checkpoint building on the edge of the city on their way to several key Palestinian buildings. In the city center, the tanks fired on the police headquarters, a complex of three buildings. At least two Palestinians were slightly wounded by shrapnel, Palestinian officials said.

The raid in Jenin, which lasted about three hours and ended with a withdrawal before daybreak, was in response to repeated suicide bombings that Palestinian militants have launched from the West Bank town, Israel said.

"Jenin has become a city of bombers," said Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the army chief of staff. He accused Palestinian security forces of cooperating with radical Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have carried out the attacks.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, said they had been expecting an Israeli assault on Jenin, and their gunmen fired on the Israeli tanks.

A spokesman for the group, who gave his nom de guerre as Osama Najjar, said some militants had explosives strapped to their bodies beneath white shrouds. However, none attempted to carry out a suicide attack.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian representatives were in touch with the United Nations Scurity Council to appeal for international forces to protect the Palestinians. Israel has adamantly opposed repeated Palestinian efforts to bring in monitors.

Palestinians have unleashed two suicide bomb attacks against Israel in the past week, one at a Jerusalem restaurant last Thursday that killed 15 people plus the bomber, and one Sunday at a restaurant in a suburb of the port city of Haifa that killed only the bomber.

Also Tuesday, Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops exchanged gunfire across a valley in the West Bank. The valley separates the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, which is in a disputed part of Jerusalem, and the Palestinian village of Beit Jalla, a frequent site of clashes. An Israeli civilian was slightly wounded by flying glass.

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