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Israeli Army Raids Jenin - 2002-05-28

The Israeli army has swept into the West Bank town of Jenin, carrying out a brief incursion that killed at least one Palestinian. The operation came hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and two Israelis.

Israeli troops, backed by armor and helicopter gunships raided the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin as part of the military's ongoing campaign to track down militants. Witnesses reported heavy exchanges of gunfire between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen. The army says it captured the local leader of the militant group Hamas, Rami Awad, during the incursion.

After the brief operation the army withdrew from Jenin.

The Israeli military describes the recent incursions into Palestinian-ruled towns as pinpoint raids based on intelligence information. "Based on concrete intelligence that we have gathered in the past few weeks we are making certain arrests in order to prevent the recurrence of suicide bombings and homicide bombings that actually originated from that area," said Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin.

The raid followed a Palestinian suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv. Two Israelis, an 18-month-old girl and her grandmother, were killed in the blast.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Palestinians say the bombing was in retaliation for the targeted killing by the Israeli army of an al-Aqsa leader, Mahmoud Titi, last week near the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinians identified the bomber as a relative of Mr. Titi.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack on the shopping mall, saying it harmed the interests of the Palestinian people and gives the Israeli army reasons to continue its "aggression and occupation."

Israeli officials blamed Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for the bombing, saying they are not doing enough to crack down on militant groups planning attacks against Israelis.

Earlier this month Israel ended a reoccupation of Palestinian population centers that followed a series of suicide attacks that killed dozens of Israelis.