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Israel Arrests Wanted Palestinians in Tulkarm Refugee Camp - 2002-11-12

Israeli troops moved into the West Bank town of Tulkarm and a nearby refugee camp early Tuesday morning arresting three suspects and demolishing the home of another. The operation was part of the military response to Sunday night's attack at Kibbutz Metzer in which a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli children and three adults.

Palestinian witnesses and security sources said some 30 tanks and armored personnel carriers drove into the Tulkarm refugee camp around 3 a.m. The army did not say whether the gunman responsible for the attack on the kibbutz was among those detained.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the killings. Mr. Arafat says he has formed a committee to investigate the attack on the kibbutz.

In Tuesday's action, the Israeli military also demolished the home of a Palestinian militant, Mohammed Naifan, who they say is responsible for sending the gunman into Kibbutz Metzer.

Israeli officials say the gunman came from Tulkarem but that he was following orders of Al Aqsa leaders in Nablus. By mid-day Tuesday Palestinian witnesses were reporting that Israeli troops were gathering outside the West Bank town.

Israeli authorities say Palestinian militants from Fatah and Hamas in Nablus are behind a series of attacks against Israelis over the past few months.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a meeting of his cabinet Monday at Kibbutz Metzer where Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought up the idea of exiling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. However, many senior Israeli officials are said to have reservations about such a move.

Israeli media say the United States has given Israel guidelines about how they would like to see it respond to terrorist incidents at a time when the U.S. government is considering possible military action against Iraq. The Americans are believed to have made it clear they expect Israel to refrain from exiling Mr. Arafat or from putting massive pressure on civilians.

In other violence on Monday, a two-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli forces west of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Three civilians were reported wounded. An army spokesman said Israeli troops had responded to shots fired at them.

The latest violence comes as U.S. envoy David Satterfield begins a visit to the region to work on a peace plan. He arrived in Israel Monday for separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.