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Israel Admits Palestinians with Valid Work Permits - 2003-02-18

Israel has lifted a general closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, allowing about 12,000 Palestinians to go back to work inside the Jewish State.

Palestinians with valid work permits are being allowed entry to Israel for the first time in more than a week.

Israel, in a surprise move, sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip on February 10, after warnings of planned terror attacks.

Israeli security officials said that the closure was being lifted, despite the continuing threat of terrorism, in order to ease the living conditions in the territories.

Earlier, Israeli soldiers arrested three Palestinian women suspected of planning suicide bombings.

Also Israeli troops shot dead a member of the militant group Hamas.

The soldiers surrounded the hideout of Muhammad Muhr, in Yatta village, south of Hebron in the West Bank. After he refused to give himself up, the soldiers opened fire and killed him.

The killing was part of an intense military offensive by Israel against Hamas. It was launched after the group blew up an Israeli tank Saturday in the Gaza Strip, killing four soldiers.

Top Hamas military commander, Riyad Abu Zeid was killed Monday in the Gaza Strip by an elite Israeli army unit.

In the past three days, Israel has killed at least eight members of the military wing of Hamas. The group has vowed to unleash more terrorist attacks against Israelis in retaliation.