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Palestinian Authorities Close Militants' Offices - 2001-12-16

Palestinian police say they have closed more offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two groups responsible for carrying out suicide bombings against Israel. The announcement was made before a major address by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in which he is expected to call for Palestinians to honor a cease-fire.

The Palestinian Authority says closing of additional sites on Saturday brings to 33 the number of offices that have been shut down since the armed wings of these organizations launched a wave of suicide bombings two weeks ago.

At the same time, the Palestinian Authority made it clear it was not arresting any more individuals from these groups, as demanded by Israel and the United States.

Palestinian officials told foreign diplomats and journalists that such arrests were not possible when the Israeli army was targeting Palestinian police and bombing their buildings.

Meanwhile, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian security buildings in the Gaza Strip, after Palestinian militants shelled nearby army bases.

The latest Israeli raid, part of a much larger military offensive, occurred shortly before Yasser Arafat was due to make a televised address calling for Palestinians to honor a truce with Israel.

A public appeal by Mr. Arafat to the Palestinian people, in Arabic, to end violent attacks is one of the demands that has been put forward by American and European officials. But Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says Mr. Arafat should be judged by his actions and not by his words.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government announced last Thursday that it had severed ties with Mr. Arafat after Hamas gunmen ambushed an Israeli bus in the West Bank, killing 10 Jews.

Since then, at least 10 Palestinians have been killed during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.