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SLUG: 2-290454 Israel / Palestinians (L)








INTRO: The Israeli military is continuing its raids into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, rounding up hundreds of Palestinians for questioning about recent suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Jerusalem.

TEXT: Israeli troops in armored personnel carriers, backed by tanks, entered the Ain Bet-Alma refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus (Monday).

Soldiers using loudspeakers ordered all young Palestinian men to come out of their homes.

Witnesses say hundreds were taken away in buses and military trucks to a nearby army base for questioning.

The army has been searching for militants in Nablus and another refugee camp, Balata, since late last week.

The army says troops blew up two houses where bomb laboratories were discovered.

Soldiers in armored vehicles also entered the West Bank town of Qalqilya, declaring a curfew, conducting searches and making arrests.

The military sweeps came as the director of the U-S Central Intelligence Agency, (C-I-A) George Tenet, is continuing his mission to the Middle East.

Mr. Tenet is meeting top Israeli and Palestinian officials as part of a diplomatic effort to end more than 20-months of violence.

Mr. Tenet is expected to focus on efforts to reform the Palestinian security services and the resumption of counter-terrorism cooperation with Israel.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian court in the Gaza Strip has ordered the release of Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P-F-L-P).

However, it was not immediately clear whether Mr. Saadat would be released from a jail in the West Bank town of Jericho.

Mr. Saadat is wanted by Israel in connection with last October's assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi.

The P-F-L-P leader is now confined under U-S and British supervision as part of a deal that freed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from virtual house arrest by Israeli forces early last month.

Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin was sharply critical of the Palestinian court's decision.

Mr. Gissin told the Reuters news agency Mr. Saadat's release would violate the agreement that ended the siege of Mr. Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.

The spokesman says Israel could now demand the P-F-L-P leader's extradition.

As Mr. Gissin put it, "If he is not brought to justice, we will bring justice to him." (Signed)


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