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Sources: Israeli ships target gun smugglers

Palestinian security forces operate a checkpoint in northern Gaza last week.
Palestinian security forces operate a checkpoint in northern Gaza last week.  

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli ships on the Mediterranean Sea shot cannons toward the southern part of Gaza City early Wednesday in what Palestinian sources said was an Israeli attempt to stop gun smugglers from entering Gaza by sea.

It was not known who was trying to smuggle the guns, nor whether the Israeli ships were successful in stopping the operation. There was no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

At the same time, 11 Israeli tanks were at the southern tip of the city, and helicopters patrolled overhead, Palestinian sources said.

Shooting was also coming from the sea toward the northern Gaza City neighborhood of Sudania and the Palestinian village of Beit Lahaya, the sources said.

The Israeli army did report that a mortar struck a Jewish house in Gush Katif, in southern Gaza. There were no casualties, the army said.

The military action came despite reports in Israeli media on Tuesday that Israel soon will begin lifting restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza and Bethlehem because of a decrease in violence.

In Gaza, Israel promised to ease up on north-to-south travel and permit Palestinian workers to enter Israel.

The decision came after Israel Defense Forces met Monday night with Palestinian security officials in Gaza. IDF officials called the meeting "positive."

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz and Israel Radio reported the development.

Sources in the Israeli military and Israel's security service, Shin Bet, said that a reduction in violent incidents had occurred in the past two days despite an apparent lack of Palestinian action against terror, according to the reports.

On Monday, Israel's Central Command said it would lift restrictions on Palestinians in the Bethlehem area beginning Wednesday. The IDF will allow workers to enter Israel, teachers to travel to school and clergy to travel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Under the "Gaza First" plan, Israeli troops transferred control of Bethlehem to Palestinian security forces last week and were expected to do the same in Gaza soon.

Sources: Key members of Palestinian group arrested

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Israeli troops arrested at least three high-ranking members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on Tuesday in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Palestinian security sources said.

Israeli authorities said four Palestinians were arrested but refused to identify them.

Palestinian sources said those arrested included Bashir al-Khairi, head of the PFLP political bureau; Ali Jaradat, PFLP spokesman; and Saqer Abu Ras, another member of the PFLP leadership.

The Palestinian Authority is holding Ahmed Saadat, the head of the PFLP, at a facility in the West Bank town of Jericho. Israel has accused Saadat of ordering the October assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi.

Last week, Israeli troops shot and killed Saadat's brother Mohammed while attempting to arrest him at his house in Ramallah, Palestinian sources said.

The Palestinian Authority called the shooting of Mohammed Saadat a crime, and the PFLP vowed to avenge his death.

The PFLP is a Palestinian militant group that has committed numerous international terrorist attacks and has conducted attacks against Israeli or moderate Arab targets, according to the U.S. State Department. The group rejects anything less than a total Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

The PFLP has been a member of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization since the late 1960s, but the Palestinian National Security Council outlawed its military wing following Ze'evi's assassination.




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