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Israeli Troops Arrest Dozens of Suspected Terrorists in Ramallah - 2002-03-30


Israeli tanks and troops continue to surround Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's office compound in Ramallah, and the Israeli military says it has arrested 145 suspected terrorists in the West Bank town. Israeli tanks have also moved into a Palestinian town near Bethlehem.

Israeli tanks moved into the town of Beit Jala early in the morning. The town has been used in the past by Palestinian snipers to shoot at a Jewish neighborhood across the valley. It is also near the Biblical town of Bethlehem where Christians are celebrating Easter weekend.

Troops and tanks still surround Yasser Arafat's office building in Ramallah after smashing through the exterior walls of his compound. More than 60 people were arrested and weapons confiscated.

Israeli troops remain in control of most of the buildings on the compound except the office area where Mr. Arafat and his aides are located. Electricity has been cut off at the compound and throughout most of Ramallah.

There was sporadic fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in the city early Saturday. Israeli forces fired on an office building and forced more than a dozen Palestinian fighters to surrender.

But, for the most part, the city's streets are empty except for Israeli patrols.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the military campaign aims to isolate Mr. Arafat and disrupt and destroy any terrorist infrastructure in Palestinian-controlled territories. Israeli officials say the operation will last longer than just a few days.

The military strikes in Ramallah came after a suicide bombing in an Israeli seaside resort Wednesday that killed 22 people celebrating the start of the Passover holiday. More than 170 others were injured in the attack.

Even after Israeli troops entered Ramallah on Friday, another suicide bomber blew herself up at a Jerusalem supermarket, killing herself and two others.

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