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Israeli Forces Storm, Then Pull Back From Arafat Compound - 2002-06-05


Israeli military forces have withdrawn from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters, after a raid that killed at least one Palestinian and wounded six others. The incursion came the day after 17 Israelis were killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

Israeli tanks, armored bulldozers and troops stormed Mr. Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinians say part of the compound was badly damaged by shelling and machinegun fire during the raid, before Israeli troops pulled back from the area and returned to positions surrounding the city.

Soldiers reportedly blew up several buildings inside the headquarters.

The army says Palestinian security personnel in the compound shot at approaching troops, who returned fire. Palestinians say Mr. Arafat was not hurt during the military operation.

In a statement, the Israeli army says it staged the incursion on Mr. Arafat's headquarters because it is the "center" of the Palestinian Authority, which the army says is "directly responsible" for terror attacks launched from the West Bank.

The statement says the raid occurred in the wake of a "wave of Palestinian terrorism sweeping the state of Israel." The military action came the day after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a car packed with explosives next to a crowded Israeli bus. Most of those killed in the explosion were Israeli soldiers.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the bomber was a teenager from the West Bank town of Jenin. The Palestinian Authority condemned the bombing and says it is hunting for militants responsible for dispatching the bomber.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delayed his departure for the United States after the bombing attack. Mr. Sharon was due to leave Thursday for talks in New York before meeting President Bush in Washington on Monday. The prime minister postponed his departure until Saturday night.

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