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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 13:52 GMT
Hamas leader captured
Israeli security operation in the West Bank
The Israeli army has been sweeping the West Bank in search of militants

Israeli troops have captured a senior militant of the radical Islamic group Hamas in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya, an army spokesman has said.

Raed Hutri is accused of involvement in suicide bombings against targets in Israel.

The Israelis say these include the attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub in June 2001 that killed more than 20 people, most of them Israeli teenagers.

On Friday, Hamas urged Iraqis to carry out suicide bombings against British and United States troops invading Iraq.

"Iraqis should prepare explosive belts and would-be martyrs to combat the US occupiers," senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz-al-Rantisi told Reuters news agency.

'More arrests'

The Israeli army detained a further 13 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight.

Its soldiers also destroyed the Bethlehem home of a militant linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, who was shot dead during an attempted suicide attack on a Jewish settlement last year.

A military statement said the demolition of the house was part of a deterrence policy to show militants "that they will pay the price for taking part in terrorist activity".

The army has destroyed some 200 Palestinian homes, a policy strongly criticised by human rights groups who say innocent relatives are also harmed.

Since Monday, Israeli forces have closed-off the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At least 20,000 Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel have not been able to leave their homes.

Stocking up

Palestinians have been stocking up on food supplies in preparation for harsher measures.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Israel imposed a curfew on the Palestinians, confining them to their homes for most of the conflict.

Palestinians say the restrictions are designed to ruin their economy and make them surrender.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




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