The Jenin Martyrs Brigades said on Tuesday Shaath should have avoided all contact with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom at a religious conference in northern Italy last week while Palestinians endured a hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

The brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees that band together a coalition of resistance fighters, said it decided to prevent the "traitor" Shaath from returning home to Gaza.

"He will be sentenced to death if he enters. The decision cannot be rescinded," the group said in a statement. "We call upon his bodyguards to abandon his convoy in order to save their lives."

Muhammad al-Wahaidi, a spokesman for Shaath, said the Palestinian foreign minister and Shalom never held a one-on-one meeting during the gathering in Rimini, Italy.
 
"Shalom was a guest there just like minister Shaath. There was a debate and minister Shaath explained the suffering of the striking prisoners and their right to better conditions and freedom," al-Wahaidi said.

Al-Wahaidi said Shaath planned to return as scheduled later on Tuesday to the West Bank city of Ram Allah from talks in Cairo between Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya and Egyptian leaders.

Jenin arrests

Five Palestinians were detained 
during a raid on a Jenin suburb

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces, backed by more than 30 military vehicles, have raided the al-Sikka neighbourhood in Jenin city and detained up to five Palestinians, Aljazeera's correspondent reports.

The raid which included house-to-house searches began in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Witnesses told Aljazeera resistance fighters surrounded some soldiers, but Israeli helicopters began air strikes and the soldiers managed to flee.

Witnesses also said those detained were civilians and not wanted activists.

Residents of the area have also ignored the Israeli curfew imposed on the city and gone about their daily activities.

The latest action by the occupation forces follow the assassination attempt on the life of Mahmud Abu Khalifa, a leader of the al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades in the city and aide to its top leader.

Abu Khalifa escaped unhurt when an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at the vehicle he was travelling in on Monday, but a nine-year-old girl was injured in the attack.