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Israel arrests 30 suspected militants

Sun., July 17, 2005

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli military forces arrested 30 suspected members of militant Palestinian groups Saturday in a series of raids in the West Bank, while thousands of Hamas supporters gathered in a hilltop cemetery here and vowed revenge for the killing of four fighters a day earlier by an Israeli missile strike.

The arrests in the cities of Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus targeted members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, known formally as the Islamic Resistance Movement, two groups that have stepped up attacks against Jewish settlements in Gaza and southern Israeli cities in recent days. Before dawn, Israeli attack helicopters buzzing over this city fired missiles into several automotive garages and machine shops that have sometimes been used to manufacture the rockets favored by the groups. No injuries were reported.

Hamas fired at least six rockets and more than 20 mortar rounds Saturday into the Negev region of southern Israel and several Jewish settlements inside Gaza that are scheduled to be evacuated next month. Israeli military officials reported light injuries but no fatalities.

A funeral procession made its way through Gaza City at midday bearing the coffins of four Hamas fighters killed a day earlier when the van they were traveling in was hit by an Israeli missile. Angry chants of “Revenge, revenge!” echoed in the streets and outside the graveyard where the men were buried. The green banners of Hamas, whipped by the wind, bobbed among the bleached headstones.

“This is our duty,” said a 27-year-old teacher from Gaza who gave his name only as Abu Firas. “As long as Israel continues its aggression, we will continue our resistance,” Abu Firas said.

The day provided more evidence that the informal truce declared in February by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had fallen apart, at least for now. A Palestinian suicide bombing in the city of Netanya and a barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza have killed six Israelis in recent days. Israel has moved troops back into Tulkarm in the West Bank, and its forces have killed seven Hamas fighters and arrested dozens of others.

In a televised address from Gaza on Saturday evening, Abbas sharply criticized Israel’s recent military operations but called on all Palestinian factions to reaffirm their commitment to the truce, saying, “We will not allow anyone to violate it.

“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the consequences of its policy, which reflects a step backward from what we had achieved,” Abbas said. “No one could expect the continuation of the truce from one side.”


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