JENIN, West Bank (AP) -- Israeli soldiers hunting for militants entered a booby-trapped building where Palestinians then set off explosives, killing 13 soldiers and wounding nine, during intense fighting in a West Bank refugee camp, an Israeli military source said.
It was the single deadliest incident involving Israeli forces in the past 18 months of violence. Dozens of Palestinian gunmen besieged in the Jenin refugee camp vowed to fight to the death, exchanging fire and hurling dozens of bombs at Israeli soldiers.
Despite the fighting, Israeli pulled out of two other towns in the West Bank, hours after President Bush made a sharp call for Israel to end the offensive it launched March 29 to crush Palestinian militias after a string of suicide attacks. The withdrawal came before Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives Thursday night in Israel to meet separately with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to work out a truce.
The Israeli military confirmed the deaths of the 13 soldiers in Jenin. A military source said the reserve soldiers entered a building that had been booby-trapped by Palestinian fighters. A powerful blast went off, burying some of the soldiers under the rubble, the reports said.
Israeli forces pulled out of Qalqiliya and Tulkarem early Tuesday, though they maintained a tight cordon around the towns. Troops remained in the towns of Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin and Ramallah.
In Bethlehem, Israel's siege of the Church of the Nativity, where more than 200 armed Palestinians are holed up, entered its second week, with no sign of a resolution.
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