Among those arrested were three members of armed groups linked to the Fatah movement of veteran Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, as well as two members of the Islamist Hamas movement, a military spokesman said on Monday.  

Israeli authorities have been placed on high alert in the wake of an air strike near Gaza City on Saturday night in which a military leader of Islamic Jihad, another armed Palestinian faction, was killed. 

However, authorities decided on Monday to reopen the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel which had been sealed off since an attack on the post last Thursday, in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

Building continues

Also on Monday, Israel's Interior Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said the separation barrier being built by Israel around Jerusalem would be completed by the end of the year after a court order to suspend construction on a 42km section. 

"The security fence, whose purpose is to save lives, will be
finished by the end of the year around Jerusalem," Hanegbi told public radio.
 

Israel's supreme court on Sunday ordered the suspension of building work on a section of the barrier, northwest of Jerusalem where two Palestinian protesters were killed last week. 

The order, which will remain in force until next week, allows
the court to examine appeals presented by residents of eight
Palestinian villages in the West Bank against construction of the barrier on their land. 

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, who paid a visit to the site on
Sunday, denounced the court's decision, saying that "any judicial delay will give a suicide bomber the chance to enter Israeli territory." 

Downplay

"Israel is a state governed by the rule of law and the delay caused by the judicial authorities is minimal.  I hope that the supreme court rejects the appeals as soon as possible."

Tzahi Hanegbi,
Israel's Interior Minister

Hanegbi sought to play down the impact of the ruling. "Israel is a state governed by the rule of law and the delay caused by the judicial authorities is minimal," he said. 

"I hope that the supreme court rejects the appeals as soon as possible."

Hanegbi said a section of the barrier already completed in the northern West Bank had shown its effectiveness in preventing infiltrations by resistance bombers into Israel from areas behind it.