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Palestinian Security Personnel Arrested in Terror Crackdown - 2001-12-19

The Palestinian Authority is continuing its crackdown on terrorists with the arrest of more than a dozen security force members suspected of links to terrorist activities. Palestinian and Israeli security officials were expected to meet later Wednesday in the first contact since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an end to attacks against Israelis.

The arrests mark the first time since the start of the Palestinian uprising that members of the security forces have been taken into custody. Security officials say the men were arrested in southern Gaza for violating the cease-fire.

The Palestinian Authority also has closed six offices in Gaza of the militant group Hamas.

The moves come after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called on militants to end their attacks against Israeli civilians.

Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction has issued a statement supporting his call for an end to attacks against Israelis. But Fatah says it reserves the right to resist Israeli occupation. Radical groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have rejected Mr. Arafat's appeal.

A public opinion survey published by a leading Palestinian research firm says a majority of Palestinians do not support a cease-fire in the current situation. More than half of those responding to the survey say they are pessimistic about the future and believe the armed struggle must continue as a way to end Israeli occupation.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has suggested that Israel could pull back its troops from the West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin if Mr. Arafat continues to take tough action against the violence.

Palestinian officials say Israel should withdraw its troops from all of the West Bank and Gaza and end the closures, which are strangling the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian Authority complains that Israel's restrictions on travel in the West Bank and Gaza makes it harder to enforce the crackdown on violence.

But for the past two days there has been a relative lull in the 15 months of violence that has engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories. More than 1,000 people have died in the violence, most of them Palestinians.