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Israel Seizes 2 Wounded Palestinians in Raid on West Bank Hospital - 2003-08-26

Israeli soldiers have raided a hospital in the West Bank town of Nablus, seizing two wounded Palestinian militants suspected of planning attacks against Israelis.

Palestinian officials say the two men were snatched from their hospital beds in a pre-dawn raid. Witnesses said Israeli troops in plain clothes entered the hospital's intensive care unit, seized the men and took them away in military ambulances.

The men were being treated at the hospital for gunshot wounds received in a gunbattle with Israeli troops last week. A third militant was killed in the firefight, which took place on the hospital roof.

Israel says the men are members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group associated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Israel accuses them of helping plan several attacks against Israelis, including a suicide bombing on August 12.

The Israeli government has said it is cracking down on Palestinian militants because the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to combat terrorism.

Meanwhile, police in Jerusalem arrested three Muslim officials who had tried to block a group of Jews from entering a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The officials of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that administers the site, said they acted because the Jews tried to pray at the Haram al Sharif, an act seen as a desecration of a holy Muslim place. The area is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, having been the place where the Jewish temples once stood. It is the most sacred site in Judaism.

The al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock were built on the site in the 7th century, making the area the third most holy place for Muslims after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Waqf officials say if Israeli police continue to allow Jews to enter the area there could be an explosion of violence.