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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Israeli tanks surround Arafat
An Israeli tank rolls into Ramallah on 10 June
It is not yet clear how long the operation will last
Israeli tanks have again surrounded the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - just hours before an US-Israeli summit in Washington.

The army launched what it described as a "pinpoint incursion" into the West Bank town before dawn, arresting at least 27 Palestinians, including policemen.

The raid led Mr Arafat to postpone the first meeting of his new slimmed-down cabinet, which was to have been held in Ramallah later on Monday.

"There won't be a cabinet meeting tonight because of the Israeli reoccupation of Ramallah," said Palestinian West Bank security chief Jibril Rajoub.

Dozens of Israeli tanks rolled into the centre of Ramallah for the second time in four days. The army said it was to "search for wanted terrorists and to find explosive labs".

Israel radio said the army arrested two men in Ramallah who "planned to carry out a suicide attack inside Israel".

One Palestinian was shot dead after soldiers entered the Amari refugee camp, while troops also took control of the suburb of Beituniyah and the neighbouring town of al-Bireh.

Earlier, at least 30 Palestinians were injured in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, in a blast apparently caused by a landmine which exploded in a house.

Suspects sought

Palestinian officials said Mr Arafat was inside his Ramallah headquarters and unharmed.

An Israeli soldier guards the entrance of a house in Ramallah, June 10
The raid began just before dawn
One of his aides, Nabil Abu Rudaynah, told Palestinian television that Mr Sharon had launched the operation "because he wants to give the impression that he has full US approval for this new invasion".

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem says such raids happen routinely throughout the West Bank now.

Our correspondent says soldiers went house to house, searching for men who may be planning the next suicide bombing in Israel.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said troops had bulldozed parts of Mr Arafat's compound.

Israel said soldiers were only surrounding the complex to prevent gunmen from seeking refuge there.

US talks

Mr Sharon is due to hold his sixth meeting with President Bush since Mr Sharon came to office in March last year.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon has said violence must end before peace talks

Mr Bush has not yet met Mr Arafat.

The talks come amid a renewed US drive to end nearly 20 months of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

Writing in the New York Times on Sunday, Mr Sharon reiterated his demand for an end to Palestinian violence before peace talks can resume, saying he would seek an interim agreement with the Palestinians before any comprehensive settlement.

Mr Sharon's visit follows that of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who urged President Bush to support the creation of a Palestinian state by next year.

But Mr Bush said he would not set a timetable for Palestinian independence.

Cabinet shake-up

There has been a cool response from both Israelis and Palestinians to changes by Mr Arafat to his cabinet, following strong pressure at home and abroad to reform the Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday, Mr Arafat cut the number of ministerial posts by about a third, and appointed a general to overhaul the various Palestinian security forces.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Gaza says the new government has been greeted with a mixture of indifference and deep disappointment among Palestinians.

An Israeli government official dismissed it as a game to impress the Americans.

The BBC's Barbara Plett reports from Jerusalem
"The Israelis say these raids are the only way to stem the tide of suicide bombers"

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