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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Israeli tanks move on Nablus
Women watch the incursion from a barred window
Nablus was targeted a day after Hebron
The Israeli army has moved into a Palestinian-controlled area of the West Bank - this time into the city of Nablus.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers reoccupied most of Nablus as well as a refugee camp on the edge of the city, only one night after a similar raid on Hebron.

An Israeli solder
Palestinians said a Fatah leader had been detained by the troops
The move came after the US envoy to the Middle East, William Burns, met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday, at the start of a new drive towards peace in the region. He is due to meet the Israeli prime minister on Friday.

North of Nablus, a Palestinian man was shot dead by a Jewish settler on Friday morning after he allegedly tried to attack the settlement of Shavei Shomron.

The army said it was looking for a second Palestinian who had tried to infiltrate the settlement.

Israeli tactic

Backed by covering fire from helicopters hovering overhead, the Israeli troops entered Nablus in about 40 tanks and armoured personnel carriers, Palestinian witnesses said, heading for the refugee camps of Balata and Askar.

Reports say there was an exchange of fire as Israeli forces surrounded the Balata camp, the location of the headquarters of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade militia which is linked to Mr Arafat's Fatah movement.

A tank entering Nablus
The armoured convoy was supported by helicopter cover

A suicide bomber who killed an 18-month-old baby and her grandmother in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva on Monday lived in the camp.

In a statement, the Israeli army said the action had been taken in the wake of what it called recent murderous attacks.

It said two Palestinians had been arrested and the operation was continuing.

Palestinian sources said one of those arrested was the Fatah leader in Nablus, Issam Abu Bakr, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The Israelis say the army has also entered the town of Qalqiliya.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem says the operation follows an increasingly well-established pattern of Israeli military activity.

In recent days their forces have swept through several Palestinian areas, arresting suspected militants before withdrawing.

Bethlehem raid

Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem on Thursday, four days after taking over the West Bank town in an attempt to thwart planned attacks on Israelis by Palestinian militants.

Thousands of Palestinians were confined to their homes and dozens of suspects were arrested during the four-day operation.

Map of Israel showing the West Bank and Nablus

The head of a militant cell behind a suicide bombing in the central Israeli town of Rishon Letzion that killed two Israelis on 22 May was reportedly among those detained.

After meeting Mr Arafat, US envoy Mr Burns emphasised the importance of a peace deal, saying: "There has been too much suffering and too much death for both Palestinians and Israelis.

"It is time to restore a sense of hope."

Arafat under pressure

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is also due to hold talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the weekend.

He spent Thursday in Lebanon discussing the situation with political leaders there.

CIA director George Tenet is due in Israel in the coming days, for talks on restructuring the Palestinian security forces.

Mr Arafat has come under pressure at home and abroad to carry out a major overhaul of the Palestinian Authority, which Israel has insisted on as a precondition for renewing talks.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Jerusalem
"The Nablus operation is bigger and longer than most"

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