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Israel: West Bank Raids Hampered Terrorist Attack Plans - 2002-05-16

The Israeli army said raids it carried out in the West Bank Thursday foiled Palestinian plans for a series of terrorist attacks. Israeli forces arrested at least 21 suspected Palestinian militants and killed one member of the Palestinian security services during the raids.

Israel said it launched the raids in an effort to tighten security before a Jewish religious holiday, Shavuot, that begins Thursday night.

Two elite Israeli commando units conducted operations in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The first unit arrested two men. One - a Palestinian - was charged with planning a shooting attack; the other - a Jordanian national - was charged with planning a suicide bombing. Israel said both attacks would have been carried out in Jerusalem. The same unit also entered a village near Ramallah, where they killed a member of the Palestinian security services wanted by the Israeli army and arrested another.

The second unit operating in Ramallah arrested members of the Islamic Jihad, a group that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks.

Earlier, the Israeli army also raided a village north of the West Bank city of Nablus, where they arrested at least 17 suspected Palestinian militants, including senior members of the Islamic group Hamas, which has also carried out suicide bombings.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli military helicopters attacked several Palestinian positions in the town of Khan Younis. The army said the attacks were in retaliation for the firing of mortar shells at a Jewish settlement near Khan Younis.

The Israeli army also announced Thursday that it has uncovered a tunnel used for weapons smuggling, close to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The tunnel, near the border with Egypt, is the seventh located in the past two weeks.