The Israeli army is occupying Bethlehem once again. A Bethlehem resident said: "Late Sunday night Israeli tanks went back hoovering in the streets of Bethlehem, entering from both north and east and covered by Apache helicopters." He said: "The tanks arrived at the centre of the old city of Bethlehem. While the aim of this invasion is not clear, the people of Bethlehem are back under curfew and full of fears. We feel like our life is kept a hostage in the hands of army officers." A military spokesman said the operation was intended to "hit the infrastructures of terrorism and preserve the gains of Operation Defensive Wall." He said the Israelis were trying to root out potential suicide bombers and explained that Manger Square had been sealed off to ensure that Palestinian militants did not flee to the Church of the Nativity, which is situated in the square. Israeli forces are also surrounding Tulkarm and Qalqilya. Palestinians also reported raids overnight in Hebron and surrounding villages, where dozens of people were said to have been arrested. The latest incursions came as General Shaul Mofaz, Israeli chief of staff warned that it might mount more intensive raids if suicide bombings did not stop. He said: "It's possible that the army will be forced to launch deeper operations if those we are currently carrying out are not effective.".
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