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Palestinian Activists Arrested in West Bank - 2003-01-30

Israeli troops moved into the West Bank town of Hebron early Thursday in search of Palestinian militants. Several activists are reported to have been arrested. The latest military operations, which come just two days after Israeli voters overwhelmingly returned hard-line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to power.

Israeli troops, accompanied by tanks and bulldozers, moved into Palestinian areas of Hebron and imposed a full curfew on the town before beginning house-to-house searches.

The military said it carried out the operation in response to a series of attacks by Palestinian militants in the Hebron area in recent weeks.

Hebron has often been a flashpoint for violence. The divided city is home to some 450 Jewish settlers, who live in heavily protected enclaves among more than 120,000 Palestinians.

In the Gaza Strip Thursday, Israeli forces demolished several Palestinian homes and witnesses said troops also destroyed two wells that provide water for residents of the town of Rafah. Witnesses also said close to 20 other homes were damaged in the operation.

On Wednesday three Israelis were injured in two separate shooting incidents. Two people, including an eight-year-old boy were hurt when Palestinian gunmen ambushed their car near Jewish settlements north of the West Bank city of Ramallah. An Israeli soldier was reported lightly injured in a Palestinian sniper attack near Jewish settlements in the southern Gaza Strip.

The military has tried to keep a tight lid on the Palestinian territories over the past few days imposing a complete travel ban for Palestinians into Israel. The action was taken to avert attacks during Tuesday elections.

On Tuesday, Israeli voters gave incumbent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his right-wing Likud party a resounding victory. Likud wins 37 seats in the 120-member parliament, still not an outright majority. Mr. Sharon now faces the task of forming a working coalition government with other political parties.