Israeli soldiers have arrested 12 Palestinians during a raid in the West Bank. The arrests came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were scheduled to meet to discuss a new peace proposal designed to end more than 13 months of violence.
The Israeli army moved into the Palestinian village of Araqa in the West Bank near Jenin. The army says it arrested Palestinians suspected of involvement in "hostile terrorist activity."
The troops were in pursuit of Palestinians who shot and killed an Israeli woman in the same area on Friday. During the raid, soldiers demolished the home of a gunman the army says killed three Israelis in the northern town of Afula last month. The army withdrew from Araqa after the operation.
Israeli troops continue to reoccupy parts of Jenin and Tulkarem, two of the six West Bank towns seized after Palestinian gunmen assassinated an Israeli cabinet minister last month.
Earlier this week, Israeli forces pulled out of Ramallah, the West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, but continue to maintain a blockade around the city.
The United States has been urging Israel to withdraw its soldiers from all areas under Palestinian control.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is considering a new peace proposal drafted by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to end more than a year of conflict with the Palestinians. Israeli media reports say the plan calls for a phased creation of a Palestinian state and the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Although Mr. Sharon has said he supports negotiations leading to a Palestinian state, he has firmly opposed uprooting any of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Sharon has repeatedly insisted that all violence must stop before talks can resume.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said the Israeli plan is a ploy designed to block peace proposals being worked on by the international community. "I believe all that we hear about the balloon tests of Israeli initiatives is attempting to preempt this international effort directed at this moment towards forming an initiative that will ensure the end of the Israeli occupation. We believe it is really high time for the Americans, the Europeans and the Russians to introduce an initiative," he said.
The United States has been trying to calm the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it builds support from Arab and Islamic countries for the international coalition against terrorism.