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Israel embarks on major raid in Jenin

Arafat:
Arafat: "It's important Israel help us."

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military has embarked on a wide-ranging raid in Jenin after getting tips that the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad was planning to carry out terror attacks against Israel from the northern part of the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said Thursday.

The IDF, which said it "is operating due to alerts as to the intent of terrorists to emanate terror attacks from the Samaria area to the Israeli home front," said it found a car packed with explosives.

Israel refers to the northern part of the West Bank, including the towns of Jenin and Nablus, by its biblical name of Samaria.

The IDF said infantry, engineering and armored forces have been operating since the early hours of Thursday. Israel said 13 terror attacks have been thwarted since June, "attacks the Islamic Jihad was planning to carry out from the area of Samaria in the form of suicide and car bomb attacks."

Palestinian security sources said troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the city at 4 a.m., imposed a curfew and arrested four people.

The IDF said three of those arrested are from Islamic Jihad, and the other is from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military offshoot of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. There were clashes in the city between armed men and the soldiers, but no one was hurt, the Palestinian sources said.

The IDF said it found a vehicle loaded with explosives in Jenin at approximately 6:15 p.m. The explosives were detonated in a controlled manner and there were no injuries, it said.

Israeli security sources said the discovery of the vehicle was the result of information they received after the arrests.

The U.S. State Department has declared Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organizations.

In a separate incident in Jenin, Palestinian youths were throwing stones at tanks, and soldiers fired back live ammunition. Two boys -- a 12 year old and a 13 year old -- were wounded, Palestinian sources said.

Renewed attempts at cease-fire bearing fruit

In other developments Thursday, leaders of Arafat's Fatah movement agreed on a framework for appointing a new Palestinian Cabinet that reflects a wider range of the political spectrum.

Arafat and Ahmed Qorei, the new Palestinian prime minister, have not made any appointments. But the leadership agreed that, in addition to members of Arafat's Fatah movement, the new Cabinet should include members of secular and leftist parties, as well as at least one person from an Islamic religious faction. The agreement also calls for more women and members of the professional working class to be included.

Also Thursday, Arafat and top Palestinian officials met to discuss two things -- reinstating a cease-fire with militant groups and the killing by Israel of a Hamas member in a Gaza refugee camp. The meeting was confirmed by an aide to acting Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

Arafat told Israeli media Wednesday that attempts to reinstitute a cease-fire with militant groups are bearing fruit. A previous, self-imposed Palestinian cease-fire fell apart in August.

"There are continuous contacts with various parties," Arafat told an Israeli TV station, which interviewed him in his compound. He spoke in Arabic.

"Yesterday I had a meeting with all the PLO factions. Even the Islamic Jihad said they are willing to respect a cease-fire. And we are continuing our contacts with Hamas, inside and outside."

Arafat said an agreement for a cease-fire is near, but added that it is "important that Israel help us."

Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called the interviews "Arafat's 3-D show -- deceit, deception and defiance" and said it was a "virtual show aimed at getting legitimacy from the Israeli public."

Hamas member killed

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said Hamas member Jihad Abu Sawarih was killed and three Israeli soldiers were wounded overnight when Israeli forces entered the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and tried to arrest Sawarih because of his alleged involvement in weapons smuggling.

The IDF said soldiers "surrounded the house in which Sawarih was present -- with the intent of arresting him. Sawarih began to flee, and fired at IDF forces, wounding two IDF soldiers, one seriously, and the other, lightly. Sawarih was killed in the exchange of fire, and his body was found during searches of the building."

At the end of the operation, the IDF said, "terrorists shot and hurled explosive devices at IDF soldiers, lightly wounding one. The wounded IDF soldier received first aid on the scene."

Soldiers shot back and "were assisted by an attack helicopter that fired toward an open area."

The IDF said forces left the camp at the end of the operation.

U.N. to debate resolution on Israel's Arafat policy

Following the U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution Tuesday that would have demanded Israel halt threats to expel Arafat, the Palestinian leader told a delegation of Palestinian academics at his compound Wednesday, "No decision here or there will shake us. We are bigger and higher than all these decisions."

The U.N. General Assembly on Friday plans to debate and vote on the resolution.

Israel and the United States have shunned Arafat in pursuing the road map peace plan, but the leader that both countries backed -- Mahmoud Abbas -- quit as prime minister after a power struggle with Arafat.

Qorei has been asked to put together a new government, which would be approved by the Palestinian parliament.

The road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.


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