Palestinian towns raided by Israeli troops

Israeli forces have stepped up their military campaign against Palestinian resistance groups.

    Israeli soldiers launch raids on Ramallah and Jenin

    Israeli patrols and infantry forces occupied a number of buildings for a short time around Palestinian president Yasir Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters on Thursday.

    Shereen Abu Aqla, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine, said that Israel justified its action by claiming that 'wanted' activists are taking shelter near the headquarters.

    She said: “The Israeli step has aroused Palestinian fears of possible attacks against the ‘wanted’ Palestinians, believed to be in the headquarters.”

    Jenin incursion

    Israeli forces also charged into Jenin refugee camp early on Thursday, in an attempt to track down Intifada activists.

    More than 20 Israeli vehicles surrounded the camp, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera correspondent Ali Al-Sumoudi.

    “Israeli forces raided the Jarat Al-Dhahab area and opened fire intensively as they faced resistance by Al-Aqsa Brigades members and other resistance fighters,” Al-Sumoudi said.

    ”Israeli forces then launched search operations in the area, claiming they were looking for wanted activists. However, they have only detained Hatim Mohammed Khroosh, a Palestinian citizen from Jenin’s camp, though he is not on their list of wanted activists.”

    He added: “Israeli forces did not break into the houses of the wanted activists. They only focused on arresting Khroosh, the citizen.”

    Israeli forces then pulled out of the camp, heading towards the areas surrounding Jenin, and imposing a blockade on the city. They also stormed Yamon town, west Jenin, searching for more resistance fighters.

    Abbas and Sharon will meet next
    week

    Israeli-Palestinian talks

    Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas are due to hold fresh talks early next week, an Israeli official told Agence France Presse on Thursday.
         
    Israeli diplomatic sources added that Sharon is considering the release of Islamic resistance fighters to advance a US-backed "road map" to peace with the Palestinians.
       
    Abbas is demanding that Israel releases 6,000 Palestinians arrested during the 33-month-old Palestinian uprising. But Israel has only agreed to release several hundred "minor offenders", ruling out Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.

    But the sources said that Sharon is thinking of expanding the criteria as a goodwill gesture.
       
    The Palestinians cautiously welcomed the report. "If this is true, this would be a positive step and we consider it helpful to maintaining the calm," Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said. 

    Sharon rebuff
       
    The news comes as Abbas is preparing for the diplomatic boost of an official visit to Washington next week, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon mulled an unsuccessful trip to persuade European leaders to sideline Yasser Arafat.
      
    Sharon flew in from Norway late on Wednesday, after failing to convince his Norwegian counterpart Kjell Magne Bondevik to sever ties with veteran Palestinian leader Arafat.
      
    The rebuff was the second in days for Sharon, after receiving a similar response from British officials earlier in the week.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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