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Israeli Forces Pull Out From Ramallah - 2002-06-13

Israeli troops have ended their blockade of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city, Ramallah. The withdrawal came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, arrived home after talks in Washington and London.

Israeli troops have pulled out of Ramallah and away from Mr. Arafat's headquarters.

At least 20 tanks, armored vehicles and jeeps pulled back to the outskirts of Ramallah from positions across the city.

The troops began their blockade of Mr. Arafat's compound, Monday, in an operation the army said was designed to root out Palestinian militants and prevent suicide bombings.

As the tanks pulled away, Palestinian police and security officers rushed into the complex and shouted slogans in support of Mr. Arafat.

The Israeli Army says soldiers arrested about 75 suspected Palestinian militants, uncovered a bomb factory and found two car bombs ready for use in planned terror attacks.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says the operation had been conducted "quietly" and the results were "impressive".

The decision to withdraw the troops came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon returned from talks in Washington and London, where he blamed Mr. Arafat for the continuing violence in the Middle East. Mr. Sharon has said peace talks cannot resume until the bloodshed ended.

Shortly before the troop pullback, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said President Bush favors a "temporary" Palestinian state even before the outcome of final negotiations with Israel.

But the White House played down Mr. Powell's statements, saying Mr. Bush had not endorsed a transitional Palestinian state.