Israeli troops stage search for militants


NABLUS, West Bank, AP

Israeli troops staged wide-ranging operations Saturday in the West Bank, making arrests as they searched for Palestinian militants in four separate cities and villages. One Palestinian was shot dead in Nablus, witnesses said.

The almost daily Israeli forays into Palestinian territory have come to resemble police operations carried out with tanks and armored personnel carriers.

In the largest raid, Israeli troops searched house to house for a second day Saturday in the Balata refugee camp, a militant stronghold next to Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Soldiers rounded up Palestinian men ages 15 to 45 on Friday, and after checking identity papers, put about 100 in trucks and drove them to a nearby military base, according to Palestinian witnesses.

The soldiers also patrolled the deserted streets of Nablus, which is under curfew, and made arrests Saturday in a residential area near Al-Najah University, where many students live.

A group of men defied the curfew and attended prayers at the mosque in Nablus?Old City. An Israeli armored personnel carrier fired on them as they were leaving, killing Tareq el-Kharaz, 24, Palestinian doctors said. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.

Troops also entered the nearby village of Tamoun, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Nablus, using small explosive devices to break down the doors of some homes, Palestinians said. The army said seven suspects were arrested.

Soldiers in armored vehicles also entered Bethlehem�s Dheisheh refugee camp before dawn, where they arrest one suspect before leaving several hours later, the army said.

At a checkpoint leading into Bethlehem, a Palestinian woman attempted to stab an Israeli soldier, the army said. She was overpowered by the soldier and taken into custody for questioning.

The Bethlehem raid marked the third time in a week the army has gone into the biblical city, just south of Jerusalem.

In several recent Palestinian suicide bombings, the attacker has come from the Bethlehem area.

Israeli tanks and troops briefly went in and out of the town of Tulkarem overnight ?then went back in again on Saturday afternoon.