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Israeli army arrests militant in raid on West Bank town

SHARE Israeli army arrests militant in raid on West Bank town

ARTAS, West Bank — Israeli troops backed by tanks raided this Palestinian village in the West Bank early Tuesday, arresting three suspected militants. Six Palestinians were hurt in clashes, officials and witnesses said.

The Israeli troops entered Artas, south of Bethlehem, and arrested a senior figure in the militant Islamic Jihad movement, one of the groups that has carried out suicide bomb attacks in Israeli cities, the army said.

The wounded Palestinians included four with bullet wounds, but their lives were not in danger, a Palestinian hospital official said. One was a pregnant woman hit in the leg while she was sleeping, but her unborn baby was unharmed, said Dr. Peter Qumri, director of the hospital in nearby Beit-Jalla. The army said its soldiers opened fire when fired upon.

Eight cars were crushed flat by the tanks and soldiers threw a grenade into one house, burning furniture and smashing all the windows in the room. The soldiers searched houses and questioned residents, before withdrawing after about three hours, residents said.

Shortly afterward and a few miles away, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo on the southern edge of Jerusalem. Gilo is built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, and has come under frequent Palestinian fire during the 16 months of Mideast fighting.

One Gilo resident was slightly injured. A number of apartments and two parked cars were damaged. Palestinian security forces moved to halt the shooting by the Palestinian gunmen, and the Israeli army said it did not return fire.

The army raid into the village of Artas came two days after a Palestinian woman blew herself up in downtown Jerusalem, killing an elderly Israeli.

Israel and the United States have demanded Yasser Arafat do more to rein in militants. To put pressure on the Palestinian leader, Israel has confined him to the West Bank city of Ramallah for the past two months.

Arafat, who met with Palestinian supporters at his Ramallah compound Tuesday, said he was confident the Palestinians would soon have an independent state.

"Victory is coming whether the Israelis like it or not," he said. "It is a gift from God to be here fighting for our holy places and bringing victory for all Arabs and Muslims."

Speaking in Vienna on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged an end to Arafat's "virtual house arrest" as a first step toward ending Middle East violence.

Arafat "is being asked to stop the violence ... to lead," Annan told reporters. But he said the Palestinian leader and aides "are so much under pressure that I really don't see how he can deliver what the international community wants him to do."

On Jan. 3, Israel seized a ship in the Red Sea loaded with weapons it says were headed for the Palestinians, and has demanded the arrest of several people allegedly linked to the shipment.

The Palestinian Authority has detained one of its financial officers, Fuad Shobaki, and has moved him from house arrest to a prison inside Arafat's Ramallah compound.

However, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday the move was not enough, and Israel has demanded additional arrests. The United States has taken an increasingly tough line with the Palestinians since the ship was seized.

The Palestinian security chief in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, said the U.S. policy is "biased" in favor of Israel, and this would "harm American interests in the region." He told The Associated Press that instead, the United States should press to "stop Israeli aggression."

Israel's national security adviser Uzi Dayan was to submit a plan Tuesday aimed at preventing Palestinian militants from infiltrating Jerusalem from the West Bank. The already large police presence in the city center has been reinforced since Sunday's bombing.

The plan is expected to call for more troops and barriers on the eastern edge of the city, but does not envision building new fences or walls inside the city itself, according to Israeli newspaper reports.

"Jerusalem is not going to be changed," said Uzi Landau, the minister of internal security. "But one difference is that we will be able in the future to control much better than now who is going to be in and who is going to be out."

Israel captured the eastern section of Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it shortly afterward, tearing down the walls and removing barbed wire barricades between the two sides.

Palestinians claim the traditionally Arab section as the future capital of a state they want to create. Some Israeli security commanders are concerned that Palestinian attackers from the West Bank can enter east Jerusalem easily, and from there easily enter the Jewish areas.