Our correspondent reported that the Israeli forces raided the refugees camp in Tulkarm and surrounded the house of Saleh Nasar, the leader of the local Aqsa Brigades. But Nasar managed to escape.

 

The Israeli forces opened intensive fire during the raid but to no avail. They arrested two members of Nasar’s family as well as Sami Subh, a leader of the Abu-Ali Mustafa’s Brigades group.

 

Later, talking to Aljazeera,  Nasar said “at 2.10 am (local time) two of us were walking within the camp when we saw a car with a Palestinian number plate approaching us, and opening fire.”

 

“Soldiers of the Israeli Special Forces got down from the car. But I managed to flee despite the soldiers firing at me. This is a clear example of how Israeli occupation forces are breaking the truce that all Palestinian groups have agreed upon,” Nasar said.

 

Settlements 

Meanwhile, Israel announced plans on Thursday to build new homes at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip in defiance of a US-backed peace plan. 

The Israel Lands Authority said the Defence Ministry had approved a tender to build 22 housing units in Neveh Dekalim, one of about 150 Jewish settlements across the West Bank and Gaza.

The road map calls for Israel to freeze "all settlement activity" immediately, but the Israeli government says existing settlements should be allowed "natural growth" within their boundaries.

The Palestinians said the new homes would be a blow to the peace "road map" and undermined efforts to rebuild trust after 34 months of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Destroying peace

"This is a big challenge to everything the peace process built," Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said.

"Israel still insists on destroying the road map because they choose the settlements over the peace."

The United States said it was still discussing with Israel the meaning of an end to settlement activity in Palestinian territories.

"Israel still insists on destroying the road map because they choose the settlements over the peace." -- Saeb Erekat

"There are very involved aspects to this, of funding, of so-called natural growth, so-called questions of children, questions of cousins, questions of schools, questions of perimeters, questions of land," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Settlement increase

But he added: "It remains a stated US policy that a settlements freeze is part of the road map and we expect the parties to abide by the commitments in the road map."

Since the 1993 Oslo peace accords, the number of Jewish settlers has increased by 70%, not counting the 200,000 Israelis living in 11 settler quarters in East Jerusalem.

A number of illegal settlements have been built very close to refugee camps, where Palestinians live cheek-by-jowl in squalor.