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Israel Launches New Raids in West Bank - 2004-04-13

Israeli forces launched new raids into the West Bank on Tuesday in search of wanted Palestinians, sparking fierce gun battles. The operations came after Israel said it had prevented 10 Palestinian suicide bombings over the Jewish Passover holiday, including one intended to infect victims with AIDS.

Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen holed up in an apartment block in the West Bank city of Nablus early Tuesday, residents said. Smoke rose from the building after Israeli soldiers fired tank shells.

The operation is part of a series of raids by Israel aimed at arresting Palestinian fugitives suspected of plotting to launch attacks.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers on Tuesday also demolished a three-story building close to the Jewish settlement of Netzarim. The Israeli army says it wrecked the building to prevent it from being used by Palestinian snipers.

On Monday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Palestinian gunmen who they said attempted to launch an ambush against the same settlement.

The latest operations come after Israeli security forces said they prevented 10 Palestinian suicide bombings over the Jewish Passover holiday, which ended on Monday night. Among the attacks Israel says it foiled was an alleged plot to use a bomb with AIDS-tainted blood to infect those who were not killed in the explosion.

Israeli officials said the attack was to have been carried out in Tel Aviv by members of an armed wing of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Fatah members held by Israel also allegedly told interrogators they had planned to launch a triple suicide bombing in coordination with the Islamic Jihad, which is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.