JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's army called on Palestinians holed up under fire for a third day in the Palestinian Authority's fortress-like Hebron headquarters to surrender Thursday, warning it will overrun the battered complex if those inside refuse to come out.
Hebron on Tuesday became the seventh of eight main West Bank towns and cities to come under the tight grip of the Israeli military, and Palestinian officials warn that the army action must end if they are to carry out U.S.-demanded reforms and elections.
Also on Thursday, Israelis downplayed and Palestinians criticized comments by President Bush, the day before at the G-8 summit of leaders in Canada, that he hadn't ruled out military force against the Palestinians.
Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikay said the remark appeared intended as a strong message rather than a threat of military force.
Israeli forces re-entered Palestinian areas last week when two suicide bombings in Jerusalem killed 26 Israelis. At least 700,000 Palestinians are confined to their homes while Israeli forces search for weapons and carry out arrest sweeps.
In Hebron, Israeli military officials have said 150 people inside the Palestinian government compound have surrendered, including at least 20 top fugitives, during short breaks in heavy machine-gun fire from the ground and helicopter gunships. About 40 people, including at least 15 wanted men, remained inside Thursday.
"We know that a few wanted persons are inside and we intend to apprehend them," Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey told Israel Army Radio. "We prefer to do it without a battle, but if it proves necessary there will be one."
Kitrey said some of those gunmen who came out had disguised themselves as Palestinian police officers, hoping the Israelis would not recognize them.
Four Palestinians have been killed thus far in the battle at the compound.
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