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Israeli Forces Raid Ramallah Mosque in Search of Wanted Palestinian Fugitives - 2003-10-21

Israeli forces raided the West Bank city where Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is based on Tuesday. The soldiers encircled the main mosque in Ramallah in a search for members of the militant Islamic group Hamas.

Israeli troops surrounded the Abdel Nasser mosque in the center of Ramallah on Tuesday, after imposing a military curfew on the city. Hundreds of worshipers were praying when Israeli soldiers entered the shrine, in search of wanted Palestinian fugitives.

Israeli military officials said the mosque is being used by members of Hamas, an organization that carries out suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

In the streets nearby, soldiers also fired warning shots and threw stun grenades to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing Palestinians angered by the incursion.

The raid came hours after Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called on the international community to demand that Israel stop its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Arafat urged world leaders to take action over Israel's killing at least 10 Palestinians in a series of air strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Israeli military officials claimed on Tuesday at least seven of the killed have been positively identified as Hamas activists.

In an unusual move, the Israeli Army released video footage on Tuesday of their operations, showing the target areas of two of the air raids. The footage provided by the Israeli Army indicated the streets were empty of Palestinian civilians at the time of the attacks.

Israel television broadcast the footage after the Israeli military came under strong criticism from the Palestinian Authority and some Israeli politicians for the air strikes.

A number of left-wing Israeli parliamentarians said it was the responsibility of the Israeli military to take precautions to prevent innocent Palestinian bystanders from being killed or wounded, during army operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.