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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Israel arrests Hamas leaders
A settler takes aim at Palestinians throwing stones during clashes in Hebron
Emotions are running high on both sides
Israeli soldiers have arrested two leaders of the militant group Hamas in an overnight raid of a refugee camp in Beitunya, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hamas leader Hussein Abu Kweik, arrested by Israeli police on Sunday
Abu Kweik escaped an Israeli attack in March which killed his wife and daughters
The two men, named as Hussein Abu Kweik and Faraj Romani, were captured in a house raid in which Palestinian witnesses said helicopters and armoured personnel carriers were used.

Israeli military sources claim the men were responsible for planning a number of deadly suicide bombings including an attack on a cafe in March which killed 11 Israelis and another in a Tel Aviv pool hall in which 15 people died.

The move comes as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took steps towards relaxing restrictions on Palestinians living under curfew in the West Bank.

An army spokesman told the BBC the men had been on Israel's wanted list for several months.

Mr Abu Kweik was the target of an Israeli army shell attack in March, however his wife and three children were killed instead.

Hebron clash

Meanwhile violence erupted in the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday when Jewish settlers and Palestinians clashed, leaving a 14-year-old Palestinian girl shot dead and several people injured before Israeli police and soldiers broke up the scuffle.


We are ready to move, and we see on the other side some initial signs of willingness to take part in this plan

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
The settlers were returning from the funeral of an Israeli soldier and fellow settler, killed in a roadside ambush by Palestinian militants on Friday.

Israeli police said that Palestinians provoked the settlers by throwing stones, but Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli soldiers did little to stop the attack.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Jerusalem says Hebron is a tense place at the best of times - a few hundred heavily guarded Jewish settlers live in the centre of the city, protected by the Israeli army and surrounded by more than 100,000 Palestinians.

'Goodwill gesture'

The attack occurred as Israel eased restrictions on Palestinians living under curfew in the West Bank, following protests in the streets of Nablus by thousands of Palestinians who took to the streets against the curfew.

Mr Sharon ordered a shortening of curfew hours, permits for 12,000 Palestinians to work in Israel and the dismantling of some military checkpoints.

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has also said he will meet Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Razek to discuss security proposals outlined by US President George W Bush.

"We are ready to move, and we see on the other side some initial signs of willingness to take part in this plan...they at least submitted some sort of plan," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying on Israeli army radio.

Nablus has been under Israeli control since last month, when Israel took over Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank in an operation aimed at stopping attacks by militants.

Israel also arranged for the transfer on Monday of $15m in frozen tax revenues to the Palestinians in what Israel called a "goodwill gesture".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"There has been a slight relaxing of restrictions for Palestinians in the West Bank"
The BBC's Chris Morris
"Nowhere has the enmity been Palestinians and Jewish settlers been more acute than it is in Hebron"

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27 Jul 02 | Middle East
25 Jul 02 | Middle East
26 Jul 02 | Middle East
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