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Israel Withdraws from Ramallah - 2001-11-07

The Israeli military has withdrawn from the West Bank town of Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. But violence continues, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Under cover of darkness, Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and troops moved out of Ramallah. Israel's defense ministry says the soldiers will continue to maintain a tight blockade around the city.

The ministry says it will hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for preventing attacks against Israelis. Ramallah, which is just north of Jerusalem, is the headquarters of the Palestinian government, and the main commercial center in the West Bank.

The military raided six Palestinian-controlled towns in the West Bank nearly three weeks ago after militants assassinated an Israeli Cabinet minister.

The incursions were the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank since the Jewish state began turning over territory to the Palestinians under interim peace accords in 1994.

Israel has been under strong pressure from the international community to pull the soldiers out of Palestinian-ruled territory. On Monday troops withdrew from Qalqilya, and last week left Bethlehem and the adjacent town of Beit Jala.

Israeli soldiers continue to re-occupy parts of the Palestinian towns of Tulkarem and Jenin.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has said the military wants to leave all re-occupied territory as soon as possible. "If the Palestinians will appoint a man that can run the security situation in every place, and put in jail the main troublemakers, there may be three or four in every place, and guarantee security, we shall be more than happy to leave the places. Actually, what we want to achieve is a gradual ceasefire," he said.

In continuing violence, one Palestinian man was killed in the Gaza Strip when Israeli soldiers fired on a refugee camp. The army says the action was in response to a Palestinian mortar attack on a nearby Jewish settlement.

A Palestinian militant died near Hebron, when undercover Israeli soldiers attempted to arrest him in connection with the death of a Jewish settler.

The army says the man drew a pistol on the soldiers, who then shot and killed him.