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SLUG: 2-294275 Israel / Palestinians









INTRO: Israeli forces lay siege to the compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank while troops and tanks make deep incursions into the Gaza Strip overnight. Two Palestinians are reported killed in the operation and three Israeli soldiers injured. Sonja Pace reports from Jerusalem on the latest Israeli action which comes in response to a suicide bombing earlier in the day in Tel Aviv.

TEXT: Israeli troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers were on the move overnight. They closed in on Mr. Arafat's compound in central Ramallah Thursday evening. Forces entered the compound, destroyed buildings and structures inside and demanded the surrender of some wanted Palestinians believed holed up inside.

The Israeli army says 20 Palestinians did surrender overnight and were taken in for interrogation, but apparently not all were on the Israeli wanted list.

Hours later, Israeli tanks, supported by helicopter gunships made incursions into the Gaza Strip in the north near the towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanun and advancing to the east to the edges of Gaza City.

The Israeli action came hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded bus in central Tel Aviv, killing himself and at least five other people and injuring around 60 others.

The decision to confine Mr. Arafat within his compound came during a meeting of the Israeli cabinet Thursday night.

Israeli officials quickly blamed Mr. Arafat for Thursday's suicide bombing, saying he had done nothing to rein in militant groups. Palestinian officials have repeatedly argued they can do little to stop the militants since Israel has destroyed much of the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure and continues to lay siege to most Palestinians cities and towns.

The Palestinian Authority did condemn Thursday suicide bomb attack and called for urgent talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Arafat was unhurt in military operation and remained inside his offices.


Thursday's suicide bombing was the second in two days. On Wednesday, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in northern Israel, killing himself and an Israeli policeman. That attack shattered a six week lull in suicide bomb attacks in Israel.

Israeli forces have blocked off, imposed curfews and effectively re-occupied most Palestinian population centers since June in an effort to deter attacks by Palestinian militants. They have also kept Ramallah and Mr. Arafat's compound under a virtual siege for much of the year. The Palestinian leader has rarely left his offices in that time.


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