— By Muin Shadeed
TULKARM, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli troops rounded up around
2,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm on
Wednesday in a fresh crackdown on suspected militants, local
Soldiers in tanks and armored vehicles backed by helicopters
imposed a curfew and searched homes for militants before telling
males aged 14-40 to gather in the courtyard of a local school or
face punishment, residents told Reuters.
It was the largest round-up of Palestinians in Tulkarm for a year
and came after an Islamic militant from a nearby village blew
himself up outside a cafe in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya on
Sunday, wounding 30 people.
An army spokesman said troops were searching anew for militants
involved in a 30-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israel for
an independent state, but gave no details.
Israeli forces have arrested thousands of suspected militants
during the conflict, many of them in citywide dragnets in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Many have been released within hours but others
remain in detention without charge.
The United States, chief mediator in the conflict, is now
preoccupied with war in Iraq and -- facing rising anti-American
resentment in the Arab world -- has urged Israel to restrain
military operations, and urged the Palestinians to curb attacks.
Palestinian violence has tailed off somewhat since U.S. and
British forces invaded Iraq on March 20 while Israel has eased off
on raids against Islamic militants in Gaza.
In response to Sunday's bombing, which the Islamic Jihad said was
a gift to the people of Iraq, Israel razed the home of the
19-year-old bomber in a village outside Tulkarm on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces demolished the Hebron home of a
militant who the army said had shot dead an Israeli and carried out
many other attacks.
Palestinians and human rights organizations condemn house
demolitions as collective punishment, while Israel says the practice
is necessary to deter attacks.
Israeli soldiers arrested 11 suspected militants elsewhere in the
West Bank on Wednesday, including three in Bethlehem.
At least 1,959 Palestinians and 727 Israelis have been killed
since Palestinian militants rose up in September 2000 after peace
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