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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Israeli raid kills militant chief
Israeli tank passes Palestinian in Bethlehem
Israel wants Palestinians to guarantee security
Israeli special forces launched a raid in the West Bank town of Tulkarm on Wednesday, killing the local leader of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Palestinian officials said.

The action followed a fresh incursion into the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday in which a Palestinian policeman was killed when troops opened fire in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the Jabaliya refugee camp.

We are under siege

Mohammed al-Masri, mayor of Beit Lahiya
Israel stepped up its security operations as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss Israeli plans for a gradual withdrawal from occupied land.

Israeli and Palestinian officials are due to meet later on Wednesday to discuss the security plan proposed by Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

A Palestinian delegation is also due to leave for Washington for two days of talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and other officials.

Israeli raid

Reports from Tulkarm say Israeli commandos backed by jeeps and an attack helicopter surrounded the home of al-Aqsa leader Ziad Daas on the western edge of the town.

Daas was killed by a sniper when he went to the roof, apparently drawn by the sound of shooting, Palestinian officials, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, said.

Reports say another militant was also killed in the raid. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Mohammed Abou Daya looks at damage to his home in Beit Lahiya
Troops made house-to-house searches in Gaza
The army is also reported to have arrested an al-Aqsa leader in Bethlehem in a building that was later bulldozed by the army.

Israeli tanks earlier moved into Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip and conducted house-to-house searches.

Eyewitnesses said the tanks advanced to the outskirts of the Jabaliya camp and opened fire on a number of houses.

"We're under siege," Mohammed al-Masri, mayor of Beit Lahiya, told the Reuters news agency.

The army said it had arrested three wanted militants in Beit Lahiya and its troops had opened fired when they were shot at. The forces had later pulled out.

'Gaza first' offer

Mr Ben-Eliezer's offer envisages Palestinians taking responsibility for security in the Gaza Strip and Israel withdrawing from the area.

He said that if Palestinians could be seen to be stopping militants in Gaza, the scheme could be repeated in parts of the occupied West Bank, such as Bethlehem and Hebron.

However, it is understood that Palestinians first want Israel to pull its troops out of Ramallah on the West Bank, where Mr Arafat has his headquarters.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat is considering the Israeli security offer
An aide to Mr Arafat, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, said the "Gaza first" proposal was "totally rejected".

The Islamic militant group Hamas has also rejected the plan.

The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Jerusalem, says the Palestinian leadership desperately wants to alleviate the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories but needs guarantees that "Gaza first" does not turn into "Gaza only".

Also, Hamas has huge support in Gaza and the Palestinians have to consider if they can afford to crack down on the group.

US visit

US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the meetings in Washington on Thursday and Friday would focus on "Palestinian civil reform efforts, a renewal of security co-operation (and) progress on political dialogue".

It will be the first high-level contact between the two sides since Washington sidelined Mr Arafat in June.

Mr Powell and US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will meet Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Economics Minister Maher al Masri and the new Interior Minister, Abdel Razak Yehiyeh.

But even before the delegation arrived, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused the Palestinian Authority of being involved in terrorism and of not being effective in making peace with Israel.

Key stories




See also:

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