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Violence Claims 3 Palestinians in West Bank - 2004-01-07

Three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops in separate incidents in the West Bank towns of Tulkarem and Nablus. The deaths came during ongoing operations in the area.

The Israeli military says troops shot and killed a wanted militant when he tried to draw a weapon as they confronted him in Nablus. They said a second man was shot dead as he hid in some bushes nearby. A military spokesman said the man was later found to have been unarmed.

In a separate incident in Tulkarem, Israeli troops say they killed an armed member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

More than 20 Palestinians were arrested in overnight raids in Nablus, at the Balata refugee camp and in Jenin. The Israeli army has stepped up military operations in the northern portion of the West Bank in the past several weeks. Twelve Palestinians have been killed in the raids.

Meanwhile, Israeli media are full of reports that an Israeli government official met a Libyan representative two weeks ago for discussions on a possible diplomatic dialogue. The Israeli government has yet to confirm that such a meeting took place, but news of it prompted an Israeli politician to announce that he had met with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son last August.

Illan Shalgi of the Shinui party said he met Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on the sidelines of a European conference attended by Israelis and Palestinians.

Last month, Libya announced it was giving up its unconventional weapons programs. The announcement came after months of secret talks with U.S. and British officials. President Bush said on Monday that Washington would take what he termed tangible steps to improve relations if Libya follows through on its pledge.