Four Israelis were wounded Wednesday evening when three Qassam rockets fell in the southern town of Sderot. The four, who suffered from smoke inhalation, were all lightly injured.
One of the rockets, which were fired from the northern Gaza Strip, landed on a pharmaceutical factory, destroying the roof and causing structural damage to the rest of the building.
Earlier, two Israeli settlers were wounded in a shooting attack on their car close to the settlement of Ateret, north of Ramallah.
The car's driver sustained moderate wounds to her stomach. Another passenger was lightly wounded in his hand.
A new Jewish settlement with 14 homes has been established in the heart of the West Bank, settler leaders said on Wednesday, at the beginning of a day of festivities to be attended by Israeli legislators.
Successive Israeli governments, including that of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, have said they would expand settlements to accommodate natural population growth, but not set up new ones on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
The Israeli Defense Ministry, which is responsible for settlement activity, said Wednesday it was unaware of a new settlement. "There has been no decision to form a new settlement," said Yarden Vatikai, an adviser to Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
The Israeli army detained 11 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight and blew up homes of Palestinians accused of anti-Israeli attacks, military sources and witnesses said.
The 11 detained were on a list drawn up by the Israeli intellligence services, the army said. Six were rounded up in the city of Tulkarem.
One house blown up in Dura, in the southern West Bank, was the family home of brothers Anis and Akram al-Namura, who were jailed after a series of attacks, including a bomb blast which killed an Israeli officer.
Some 15 people lived in the three-storey dwelling, which belonged to the father of the brothers, Mahmud Talal al-Namura, witnesses said.
In another demolition, Israeli troops blew up the house of the fugitive leader of the Islamic Jihad group in Hebron, Diab Shweiki, who escaped an Israeli missile attack on his vehicle several months ago.
Also Wednesday, Palestinian security officials said that 18 Palestinians, many of them members of the security forces, have recently been arrested as suspected informers who helped Israel kill wanted activists. Eleven of the men were to be put on trial soon, said Maj. Gen. Moussa Arafat, head of military intelligence.
On Wednesday, Israel maintained its siege of Yasser Arafat's headquarters for a seventh day, defying a call by the U.N. Security Council to end operations there and withdraw from Palestinian cities.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel would not comply with the resolution because the Palestinians are not meeting the council's demands to stop attacks on Israelis and arrest those responsible. "We cannot fulfill our part (of the resolution) because the other part will not be fulfilled," he told foreign diplomats.
According to Peres, Israeli and Palestinian officials resumed negotiations on Wednesday to try to end the standoff at Arafat's compound.
Meanwhile, Washington stepped up its pressure on Israel to end the siege over Arafat, but Israeli officials Wednesday denied that there was an argument between Israel and the Bush administration over the blockade and American fears that Israeli actions could disrupt plans for an American offensive against Iraq.
Israel's ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon Tuesday met administration officials to discuss the Israeli operation in Ramallah. The Americans stressed during the meeting that the United States is interested in a swift conclusion to the siege on Arafat and its removal from the diplomatic agenda.
According to press reports, the meeting was part of an apparent escalation of administration pressure on the Sharon government. Also on Tuesday, the United States asked Israel to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to the siege of Arafat.
Tawfik Tirawi, the Palestinian intelligence chief, who is holed up in Yasser Arafat's besieged compound, said in an interview published Wednesday that he and the Palestinian leader would fight rather than surrender to Israeli forces.
Tirawi is being held along with Arafat and some 200 other Palestinians in the demolished headquarters.
In the interview with the Israeli daily Maariv on Wednesday, Tirawi said he would not turn himself in. "I don't know what surrender is. I have the right and obligation to defend myself. I intend to fight. Yasser Arafat and I will fight to the last minute," Tirawi was quoted as saying. "I know that that these two rooms, where we are confined with President Arafat, are stronger than all your might."
"You can kill me, that is a possibility. You can kill Arafat. That is a goal. But you will never make our nation surrender," Tirawi added.
Despite international condemnation, including harsh criticism from the United States, Israel has been saying it will not end its siege until Tirawi and the other wanted Palestinians surrender.
Tirawi said he is a victim of internal Israel politics and is wanted because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to present a high-profile victory to hawks in his Likud Party who support his rival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He denied he was involved in attacks on Israelis, but added "I have the right to defend myself against anyone who shoots me." "Just like I am obligated to defend political agreements, this is how — and maybe more — I am obligated to defend my people and my nation."
Tirawi blamed Sharon for the violence, saying he did not make any moves to negotiate with the Palestinians during a six-week period of calm that started Aug. 4. "There are people on your (the Israeli) side to whom calm causes political discomfort," Tirawi said, adding that in the end the sides will return to the negotiating table.
"I am convinced that this (peace talks) is a Palestinian and Israeli interest. That is the reason that I continue to oppose and prevent attacks. Every drop of blood that can be preserved is for the best," Tirawi said. (Albawaba.com)
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