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Israel rejects militants' cease-fire offer

Suicide bombing in Haifa wounds 29

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel rejected a temporary cease-fire offer by four militant Palestinian groups Sunday to halt their attacks through the end of Ramadan if Israel agreed to stop assassinating their members.

"Israel deals only with the Palestinian Authority," said Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "The Israelis don't deal with these terrorist organizations. They have nothing to do except call for the destruction of Israel."

The cease-fire offer, faxed late Sunday to news organizations, was signed by members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. The fourth group is an obscure one.

The offer came the same day a suicide bombing at a Haifa bus stop wounded 29 people. It was the sixth terrorist bombing in Israel in nine days and came one week after the suicide bombing of a bus in the coastal city killed 15 Israelis and injured 35.

Israeli police said when two officers on security detail called out to a suspicious man, he blew himself up. The policemen said the man was still alive and reaching to press something, so they shot him dead.

A suicide bombing in the Israeli city injures 29 people, and four Palestinian police officers are killed by Israeli soldiers. CNN's Mike Hanna reports (December 10)

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A bomb squad detonated a second set of explosives found on the man. Israeli police said the bomber had intended to board a bus.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the bombing. "Palestinian people ought to be asking their leaders, 'Where does this take us?'" he said.

Arafat says the Palestinian Authority is cracking down on militants and has rounded up more than 180 since last weekend's suicide attacks that killed 25 Israelis and three Palestinian bombers in Jerusalem and Haifa.

Those attacks were believed to have been in response to Israel's killing last month in Nablus of Mahmud Abu Hanoud, a Hamas military leader.

"They're obviously feeling the pressure of the Israeli measures," Gissin said. "But Israel places the onus on the Palestinian Authority to dismantle these groups."

Four Palestinian policemen killed

Elsewhere, four Palestinian policemen were killed during an operation by Israel Defense Forces to round up suspected militants in the West Bank villages of Anabta and Ramin.

Israeli military sources told CNN two vehicles attempting to leave Anabta opened fire on the army force, which included tanks. Israeli soldiers returned fire, killing four Palestinians and later finding three pistols and three automatic rifles inside one vehicle.

Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian Medical Agency said witnesses saw Israelis enter the town firing and claimed the four policemen killed did not open or return fire. Barghouti and the Palestine Red Crescent Society said four were wounded; the IDF said two were wounded.

Israeli forces sealed the town, burning and searching houses and making arrests, Barghouti said. The soldiers found an explosives factory in Anabta with ready-to-go explosives and suicide belts, the IDF said.

In Ramin, the IDF said soldiers found weapons and ammuntion and arrested five terror suspects. The IDF said it targeted the village because it contained "a wide infrastructure of terror" and "many attacks" had originated there.

One of the cars in which four Palestinian police officers were killed in Anabta.  

During the search, "one of the suspects left his house with a pistol and tried to escape," according to an IDF statement. The man was wounded, treated and evacuated to a hospital in Israel, the statement said.

Altogether in the operation, the army said it arrested more than 25 people, among them Tanzim and Islamic Jihad activists, some of whom were on Israel's wanted list.

Erakat: Militants aim to undermine Arafat

On the diplomatic front, Paul Patton, a U.S. Embassy official in Tel Aviv, told CNN that Anthony Zinni, the U.S. envoy to the Middle East, met with the Palestinian and Israeli security officials Sunday and they agreed to meet again soon.

"The United States plans to convene the two sides for another meeting in several days," Patton said. "The next meeting will happen sometime within the coming week. Zinni has no plans to leave the country."

The Israeli Cabinet met Sunday at the army headquarters near the settlement of Bet El in the West Bank.

Sharon said the unusual location was chosen so Cabinet ministers could see firsthand the "impressive efforts" of the country's army, police and security forces.

Sharon said Israel's security activities were not finished and that in light of recent events the activities might have to be increased.

Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said Palestinian extremists who are carrying out suicide bombings "want to sabotage the peace process. They want to undermine the Palestinian Authority" and it "seems to me that when Sharon hits back, he's responding by undermining the Palestinian Authority."

-- CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance and Producer Mike Schwartz contributed to this report.


• Palestinian Authority
• Israeli Government
• Israel Defense Forces
• Palestine Red Cresent Society

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