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Palestinian Students Injured in Blast at West Bank School - 2002-09-17

An explosion shook a Palestinian school in the West Bank Tuesday morning. The cause of the blast was not immediately clear, but police and witnesses said at least five students were injured, some of them critically.

The explosion occurred in the courtyard of the school, located just south of the West Bank city of Hebron. School was in session at the time.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli troops raided an area in the southern Gaza Strip, around the Khan Younis refugee camp.

They arrested more than 20 suspected Palestinian militants and destroyed nine workshops and factories they said where used to make weapons.

Palestinian security officials said the destroyed sites were metal workshops and plastic and textile factories. They say Israeli troops also searched some 60 homes during the five-hour raid.

Israeli forces have been carrying out almost nightly raids on many Palestinian neighborhoods. Most Palestinians cities and towns remain under a strict curfew part of what Israel says is an operation to try to stop attacks by Palestinian militants against Israelis.

Normal life has resumed in Israel after the Yom Kippur holiday, which brought the country to a virtual standstill from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday. However, troops are said to remain on alert for possible militant attacks.

On another issue, Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Radio that Iraq's agreement to allow the resumption of weapons inspections is not likely to prevent future U.S. action against Baghdad. Speaking from New York, Mr. Peres said he does not think inspectors will be able to locate all of Iraq's non-conventional weapons plants.

A senior aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat welcomed the news that Iraq has agreed to the unconditional return of U.N. weapons inspectors to the country. Nabil Abu Rdainah said the agreement puts an end to what he called American "excuses" for a military strike against Baghdad. Palestinians fear that military action against Iraq will draw world attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they believe the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon would exploit the situation by enforcing an even tougher crackdown on the Palestinian uprising.

Mr. Abu Rdainah also said senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath would meet in New York with representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Mr. Abu Rdainah said the challenge now is to begin implementing on the ground proposals to end the conflict and create a Palestinian state.