Operation Defensive Shield

   A large-scale counterterrorism military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that began on 29 March 2002 with an incursion of the IDF into the West Bank city of Ramallah, followed by entry into Tulkarm and Qalqilya on 1 April, Bethlehem on 2 April, and Jenin and Nablus on 3 April. It was commenced after a particularly harsh month of terrorism against Israel in March of that year, including the Passover Massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya, in which more than 130 people were killed. The stated goal of the operation was to enter West Bank cities, villages, and refugee camps and destroy the terrorist infrastructure there that was supported by the Palestinian Authority. Military orders also included the targeting of anyone taking up arms against IDF soldiers during the operation.
   At the eruption of fighting in Bethlehem, Palestinian gunmen took over the Church of the Nativity. IDF soldiers surrounded the site, leading to a 38-day standoff, which ended after the Palestinians inside agreed to have 13 terrorists among them deported to several different countries. Jenin was the site of an especially heavy confrontation. Palestinian sources falsely claimed a massacre of Palestinian civilians occurred there, but postbattle inquiries by human rights organizations and the United Nations invalidated these allegations. The final toll of the Jenin battle was 52 to 56 Palestinian Arabs, mostly armed fighters, and 23 Israeli soldiers dead.
   On 21 April, the IDF withdrew its troops from the West Bank cities, signifying the official conclusion of Operation Defensive Shield.
   See also Security Barrier (Security Fence, Separation Fence); Separation; Suicide Bombings.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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