The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that the king of Jordan "publicly warned Vice President Dick Cheney that a U.S.-led move against Iraq could destabilize the region." The paper adds that the admonition may be a sign of things to come as Cheney continues his travels throughout the Middle East. USA Today leads with word that a jury rejected Andrea Yates' insanity plea and convicted her of murdering her children. The jury took three hours and 40 minutes to make their decision. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with news that Israeli troops and dozens of tanks invaded Ramallah, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is currently headquartered. As the LAT says, the "Israeli army took control of the city in a massive display of force, battling gunmen, digging trenches across roads, searching homes and detaining hundreds of men in the nerve center of the Palestinian Authority." The LAT adds, "Thirty-five Palestinians were killed in a 24-hour period ending Tuesday night." Meanwhile, two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on motorists in northern Israel, killing six people and wounding seven. The New York Times also leads with the conflict but headlines U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's remarkably harsh words for Israel. He told the country, "You must end the illegal occupation" of Palestinian lands. "More urgently, you must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians." Annan criticized Palestinian terror attacks as well, calling them "morally repugnant."
The U.S. State Department's spokesman also criticized Israel, albeit with less heated words: "While we respect Israel's right of self-defense, we continue to be very troubled by Israeli Defense Force actions."
The LAT's lead doesn't attempt to give a sense of whether most of the 35 Palestinians killed were combatants or civilians. In the 12th paragraph of a stuffed article, though, the paper says that in at least one of the operations, "Many of those killed and wounded appeared to have been gunmen or militants."
The NYT mentions a poll in which 46 percent of Israelis said they support the "transfer" of Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
USAT and the LAT catch word that the U.N. Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution late Tuesday night that calls for a Palestinian state.
The 12th paragraph of the LAT story on the Middle East notes, "The Palestinian Authority urged inhabitants to resist the troops." USAT is more explicit: "Arafat urged them over the radio to fight."
USAT reports that "more than 20,000 Israeli troops were involved" in the operations. The NYT, citing Israeli television, makes the same observation. But the LAT notes that Israel's top general announced that 20,000 troops, as the LAT put it, "are now deployed in the West Bank and Gaza." Simply being deployed in the territories doesn't necessarily mean that units were involved in the operations mentioned above.
Whatever the exact number of troops involved, the papers point out that it's Israel's largest offensive in 20 years.
"It's very tense," one Palestinian resident told the LAT. "Everyone is waiting for something worse to happen. We're getting ready for something big."
The WP and NYT note that U.S. and Afghan forces launched their offensive against the final holdouts in eastern Afghanistan and met very little resistance. The Post says, "The development suggested that the guerrillas have either hidden more effectively than predicted or fled the area, possibly heading toward the Pakistani border."
The NYT, citing an Afghan commander, has some specific information about where they may have gone: "It was already known that a Taliban commander named Nangyali had helped many escape into the Charkh Mountains in Logar Province to the north of here."
The LAT says in the 19th paragraph of its war story, "A local elder had said Tuesday that proposals were still being floated among Afghans to try to bring about a cease-fire and allow the remaining al-Qaida and Taliban supporters to quietly leave the valley and go elsewhere."
The NYT concludes, "Intermittent guerrilla warfare is a likely prospect for years to come."
The papers concede that it's impossible to know yet what's happened to the al-Qaida forces. The Post gives an extra reason for the dearth of info: "Though the Afghans have been willing to be cooperative with the news media, the American military has barred reporters from free access to the action."
The Pentagon emphasized that the battle isn't done yet and that there are still pockets of al-Qaida resistance. "Operation Anaconda continues," said a military spokesperson. "It will not wind down until we know we have killed them all."
The NYT says that unlike after the Tora Bora campaign, this time U.S. troops will lead the search of the caves.
Everybody notes that a flight school in Florida just received paperwork from the Immigration and Naturalization Service affirming that Marwan al-Shehhi and Mohamed Atta have been approved for student visas. The INS explained that the two men's visas had been approved well before the men crashed planes into the World Trade Center. The INS acknowledged it probably should have withdrawn the approvals after Sept .11, but said that didn't happen because it's stuck with equipment that's "antiquated, inaccurate, untimely and of little utility to I.N.S., school or students." Actually, that explanation was included in a draft press release. As the NYT states, "Those admissions were deleted from the final statement."
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