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Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian, Arrest 12 in West Bank - 2002-02-12


Israeli troops launched raids killing one Palestinian and arresting at least 12 suspected militants in the West Bank.

Israeli soldiers entered the Palestinian-controlled town of Halhoul, near Hebron, in an operation to arrest Palestinian militants. There was an exchange of gunfire during the raid and a member of the Palestinian security services was killed.

The Israeli military says it arrested a wanted gunman from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

Palestinian officials said the Israeli troops demolished three buildings in Halhoul before withdrawing from the area. One of the destroyed buildings was reportedly used to produce rocket launchers.

In another incursion near Hebron, soldiers arrested a Palestinian man who allegedly is a member of the militant Islamic Jihad organization.

The Israeli army said he is wanted by security forces for his involvement in shooting attacks and assisting in the transport of explosives.

In a separate operation, the army has said it arrested 10 Palestinians in an area under Israeli security control near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Israel Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has warned that he may send troops to re-occupy some Palestinian-controlled areas if militants fire more Qassam-2 rockets into Israel.

The rockets have a range of about eight kilometers and can reach some Israeli population centers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Two such rockets were fired earlier this week, prompting Israel to retaliate with air strikes on Palestinian targets in Gaza.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer says Israel may setup so-called security zones in the West Bank and Gaza if more rockets are fired.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Danny Shek says Palestinian rocket fire can never be acceptable to the Jewish state.

"We will not accept a potential threat on an Israeli population center. It is something that will simply not be acceptable for Israel and I think that is something that is understandable to anyone standing from the side and watching this," Mr. Shek said.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said the escalation in attacks and counter-attacks is evidence the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority.

"I think it is high time for the United States, for the European Union, for all concerned about these deteriorating situations, to have a direct intervention in order to stop Sharon before it is too late," Mr. Erekat said.

It is not clear how Israel could setup security zones in the West Bank, since that could require taking over Palestinian towns close to Israel, such as Tulkarm and Qalqiliya.