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Israeli Military Continues Raids in West Bank - 2002-06-01


The Israeli military is continuing to stage raids into Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, arresting militants allegedly responsible for suicide bombings and shooting attacks. At least one Palestinian was killed during Saturday's military operation.

Israeli forces, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, continued their sweep through Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank in what the army calls pinpoint operations for weapons, explosives and militants.

In Nablus, Palestinian witnesses said an Israeli sniper killed one man during the raid. An army spokeswoman has said there were several exchanges of fire between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.

Troops conducted house-to-house searches, and rounded up hundreds of Palestinian men for questioning. Most were released.

The Israeli army says about 50 Palestinians were arrested in Nablus, the adjacent Balata refugee camp and the nearby village of Tamoun. The army says it found an explosives lab during searches in Nablus.

A curfew has been clamped on the city and the Balata camp. Balata is known as a stronghold of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group that has carried out many deadly attacks inside Israel.

Earlier, Israeli soldiers arrested one suspected Palestinian militant in the Dheisheh refugee camp next to Bethlehem.

The latest incursions coincide with renewed diplomatic activity designed to bring an end to more than 20 months of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Saturday, and discussed a proposed Middle East peace conference.

After the talks, Mr. Solana told reporters the suffering of Palestinian civilians makes it vital to push ahead the peace process.

Mr. Solana said he found "President Arafat very determined to move in that direction."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns is also continuing his mission in the region, and is holding talks with Israeli leaders, as well as Palestinian politicians and academics.

The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, is expected to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders early next week in an effort to re-establish counter-terrorism cooperation.