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Israeli forces raid West Bank town of Jericho
Updated: 2004-07-01 15:48

Israeli forces mounted a rare raid into the West Bank town of Jericho on Thursday, detaining more than 20 wanted Palestinians, the Israeli army said.

Witnesses said tanks and armored personnel carriers backed by helicopter gunships pushed into the ancient town in an area largely untouched by nearly four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

"We have arrested more than 20 wanted men so far, among them senior people, and found weaponry that includes rifles and grenades," a military spokeswoman said.

Palestinian security sources said three of those taken into custody were wounded and soldiers blew up the house of a wanted man, who was also detained, from President Yasser Arafat's Fatah.

"This is a dangerous escalation by Israel," said Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, a Jericho resident.

Residents of Nablus, also in the West Bank, said troops moved again into the city's old town, or casbah, closing its entrances and taking over a number of houses in a search for militants.

During an operation in the casbah last week, soldiers killed the West Bank commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group within Fatah.

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