Israel raids more West Bank villages as Powell still undecided regarding meeting with Arafat
Israeli forces moved into more West Bank villages Saturday. Early Saturday, Israeli forces pulled out of the town of Dahariyeh, but witnesses said tanks moved into Burkin, Arabe and Hashimiyah — all outside of Jenin.
Witnesses said 60 army vehicles entered Arabe, south of the city of Jenin, where they imposed a curfew. In Burkin, soldiers used loudspeakers to warn the town's 5,000 residents not to leave their homes. Residents said about 75 families from the Jenin refugee camp were in the town.
In Bethlehem, a standoff continued at the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity's holiest sites. Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers were circling the church compound and soldiers made calls through the night for the 200 Palestinians holed up inside to surrender.
Israel Radio reported Saturday morning, Israeli troops arrested several senior Palestinian activists, among them Nasser Awis, a senior Fatah-Tanzim operative, during an operation in the West Bank in the early hours of the morning.
An Israeli special unit arrested Awis in the town of Tubas, east of Nablus, after he gave himself up when the troops surrounded the building in which he was hiding. Awis is head of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Balata refugee camp. He disappeared from the camp several weeks ago.
According to Israeli reports, three other activists were detained, among them Mohammed Hader, a senior member of Tanzim in the West Bank, who is blamed by Israel of having links to a large number of attacks against Israeli targets.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was still trying on Saturday to decide whether he would meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Following a meeting Saturday with Christian church leaders at the American consulate, Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan said Powell had told the clerics he would meet with Arafat, but Powell quickly disputed that account.
"We are examining what we are going to do and we're going to make a decision later in the day," Powell said. (Albawaba.com)
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