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SLUG: 2-291130 Israel / Palestinians









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INTRO: Israel says it will take control of parts of the West Bank and hold them as long as Palestinian terrorist attacks persist. V-O-A's Larry James in Jerusalem reports Israeli tanks and armored vehicles have already entered several West Bank cities under the cover of assault helicopters.

TEXT: A government statement released before dawn Wednesday says Israel is changing the way it responds to what it calls murderous acts of terrorists.

The statement says Israel has decided to counter terrorism by capturing territories of the Palestinian Authority. It said these areas will be held "as long as terror continues."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Israeli action shows that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to destroy the Palestinian Authority and block peace moves. He said Mr. Sharon is trying to abort every effort to revive the peace process, even if it comes from President Bush.

Mr. Bush is planning to make a major Middle East policy speech this week. In it, he is expected to announce a new peace plan that is said to call for an independent Palestinian state. A White House spokesman said the recent developments in the region will not interfere with the president's intention to lay out his peace initiative.

Palestinian witnesses say the Israeli army has reoccupied the town of Jenin and its refugee camp, and that troops are searching for suspected Palestinian militants. They say Israeli helicopters also have been firing at buildings in the area, which Israel says is a hotbed of Palestinian militant activity.

Israeli tanks and troops also carried out a pre-dawn raid on the city of Nablus and arrested a number of suspected Palestinian militants.

The Israeli military says soldiers also made several arrests in Qalqilya, the divided city of Hebron, and two nearby villages.

Israeli radio says the Jenin operation is part of Israel's response to Tuesday's bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 19 Israelis and wounded more than 50.

The radical Islamic group Hamas said its armed wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, was responsible for the bombing. The group identified the bomber as a university student from the Al-Fara refugee camp near Nablus.

A series of similar raids into the West Bank and a recent five-week-long re-occupation have failed to put an end to the Palestinian suicide bombings.


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