The Israeli defense ministry announced late Wednesday troops were pulling out of West Bank villages of Yatta, Qabatya and Samua. Yatta and Samua are near the southern city of Hebron, and Qabatya is near the northern city of Jenin, where some of the most fierce fighting has been reported.
Israel said its forces has withdrawn also from Tubas, Taysir, Tamoun, Anabta and Salfit, which is in the Nablus area.
However, early Thursday, Israeli forces and tanks streamed into the southern village of Dahariya, the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp, and the central West Bank town of Bir Zeit — north of Ramallah — and troops quickly occupied the police station and began doing house-to-house searches, witnesses said.
The tanks encircled the area around one of the biggest Palestinian universities while elite infantry units also penetrated the autonomous Palestinian town, they said. Israeli troops also occupied Palestinian security offices in the town.
Israeli forces on Thursday arrested 80 Palestinians in Dahariya near Hebron.
The operation was carried out just hours before the scheduled arrival in Israel later Thursday of US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The White House supported the Israeli “withdrawal” from the villages and said the Palestinians should respond. "The burden isn't Israel's alone. All parties have responsibilities," spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
A Palestinian man and his two wifes were shot dead overnight by Israeli forces in the village of Arabeh. Israeli forces also operated overnight in the city of Tulkarem, where they arrested a young Palestinian woman, Shifa Adnan al-Kudsi, 24. According to The Jerusalem Post, she "planned to carry out a suicide bombing attack" in Israel.
Also Wednesday night, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian fighters armed with grenades and Kalashnikov rifles near the Kisufim crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.
Palestinian security sources said Israelis killed yesterday the leader of the Hamas military wing in Hebron, Akram al-Atrash, in his hideout in the nearby village of Dura.
A Palestinian was killed Thursday when the explosives he was wearing blew up in Hebron, apparently by accident, AP reported. A number of bystanders were injured, Palestinian witnesses said.
In Ramallah, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and other Palestinian leaders met with Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian Authority headquarters where he has been under siege for nearly two weeks. Erakat later met with U.S. Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni.
Erakat said he relayed a message to Zinni from Arafat: That Palestinians "will exert every possible effort to ensure the success of Secretary Powell's mission." "We assured him of our full commitment to all our obligations," he told CNN. But, he added, "the first step that must be taken is that Sharon must heed the call of President Bush to withdraw immediately and to stop the incursions and then move into the cease-fire."
An Israeli government source said Israel would pull its troops back from Arafat's compound before Powell arrives. (Albawaba.com)
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