Nine "illegal arms traders" were also arrested, Reuters reported.

The move is in line with the requirement of the US-backed "road map" for Palestinian authorities to disarm resistance groups.

In a separate move, both Israeli and Palestinian officials appealed to Washington to help halt the continuing fighting.

Earlier this week a Jerusalem bus bomb claimed by Hamas killed 20 people. The group said it was in response to continuing Israeli violence against Palestinians. 

US appeal

Israel reacted by launching a missile attack that claimed the life of Ismail Abu Shanab, a Hamas political leader, on Thursday.

“The whole situation is dependent on the Americans,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, a close aide of Yasir Arafat, said a day after the Palestinian leader chaired a new crisis meeting at his West Bank base in Ramallah, Reuters reported.

In response to the appeals from both sides, America stepped up its pressure on Hamas, which it blames for the continued carnage, extending a freeze on the movement's assets and targeting its support network.

There are a myriad of tunnels used to import weapons to support fighters in the Occupied Territories.

The US said it plans to send senior officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, to the region to bolster ongoing talks by US chief peace monitor John Wolf.

Britain

Arafat also called on Europe to "boost its efforts" to help implement the "road map", during a telephone conversation with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, officials said.

US officials have expressed alarm at the dramatic deterioration of the situation in the past two weeks after the truce declared on 29 June started promisingly with a reduction in the daily toll.

The Palestinian Authority has brushed aside US demands for a crackdown on resistance groups, saying it would not act until Israel ended attacking Palestinian areas.

"Now when the Palestinian territories are full of tanks ... I think that it will hinder any effort that we will take," Information Minister Nabil Amr told reporters.