"Israeli security officials today identified the suspected gunman in the Kibbutz Metzer attack as Sirhan Sirhan and said he is a distant relative of the assassin by the same name who killed Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968."
Israel Mounts Major Raid on West Bank Town
By JOEL GREENBERG with TERENCE NEILAN
New York Times, Nov 13 - JERUSALEM — Israeli forces backed by tanks and helicopters mounted a major raid on the West Bank town of Nablus today in response to a weekend attack on a kibbutz that left five people dead.
Hundreds of soldiers backed by about 100 armored vehicles and helicopter gunships stormed into the city before dawn. Military commentators said they expected the operation to last for several weeks.
Troops have been in Nablus for most of the past seven months, enforcing curfews and manning checkpoints.
Today they went from house to house in a search for suspected Palestinian militants and arrested at least 30 people, the Israeli Army said.
The raid was concentrated on several militant strongholds — the Old City, two neighborhoods near An Najah University, as well as the Balata and Askar refugee camps on the outskirts of Nablus.
There were sporadic gunfights but no reports of injuries.
Tanks sealed all exits from the casbah, a maze of alleys and underground passages and the scene of extensive fighting in April. Troops took over a nearby girls' elementary school as a makeshift base.
Israel declared Nablus a closed military zone, and soldiers barred journalists from taking pictures or talking to those rounded up.
Troops also swept into Bir Zeit, a university town north of Ramallah, arresting suspected militants and confining residents to their homes.
The Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat denounced the raid as a "new war crime."
Mr. Arafat also responded angrily to Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge that, if elected prime minister, the first thing he would do would be to expel the Palestinian leader.
"Netanyahu has to remember that I am Yasir Arafat and that this is my land and the land of my great-great-grandfathers," he said.
News reports and Israeli security officials today identified the suspected gunman in the Kibbutz Metzer attack as Sirhan Sirhan and said he is a distant relative of the assassin by the same name who killed Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968.
The kibbutz attack suspect is a 19-year-old from the Tulkarm refugee camp. Relatives reported that Israeli troops searched their homes and detained two of his uncles in a raid earlier this week.
Israeli security officials have said the order for the kibbutz attack came from militiamen in Nablus.
The Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Mr. Arafat's Fatah group, claimed responsibility for the killings at Kibbutz Metzer, but Fatah said it had nothing to do with the attack, and it condemned assaults on civilians.
In the Gaza Strip today, Israeli helicopters fired four missiles on a suspected weapons workshop in Gaza City, the second such strike in two days. The attack demolished a car repair shop that had been severely damaged in a similar predawn attack on Monday. The shop was empty at the time.
Addressing a Likud Party gathering in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon staked out their positions in advance of a party primary scheduled for Nov. 28.
Mr. Sharon, who cast himself as a responsible centrist, won the loudest applause from the floor and seemed popular among the hundreds of party faithful gathered in the convention hall. "Arik, king of Israel!" they chanted, using his nickname.
Mr. Sharon also favors expelling Mr. Arafat, but he is constrained by a commitment to the Bush administration not to harm the Palestinian leader, who has remained for months in his headquarters in the West Bank.
On Tuesday night Mr. Sharon suggested that Mr. Netanyahu's proposed course of action was rash and could cause strains with the United States.
The winner of the party primary will be the Likud candidate for prime minister in national elections that have been set for Jan. 28. Mr. Netanyahu lost no time on Tuesday night in saying what he planned to do first if elected.