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Arafat shuts down Hamas offices

PA police
A Palestinian policeman writes in Arabic letters 'closed under the control of the Palestinian Authority' on a Hamas office in Gaza  

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Palestinian Authority is shutting down offices and institutions of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the West Bank, a Palestinian security official has told CNN.

The closures started Saturday night and continued Sunday. Twenty-nine closures have been made in the West Bank and 13 in Gaza.

It is part of a promise the Palestinians gave to U.S. officials to work to halt acts of terror in Israel by cracking down on the groups, which are believed to be responsible for many attacks on Israelis.

The closures of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices follow orders Wednesday from Arafat to shut down the organizations, after an attack Tuesday on an Israeli bus in the West Bank that resulted in 10 deaths and left 30 others injured.

An Israeli helicopter, meanwhile, fired missiles early Sunday on a Palestinian police station in Jabaliya, a refugee camp in Gaza. There has been no word yet on casualties.

Palestinians say such Israeli military actions only hamper their efforts to dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because they provoke public outrage and reactionary attacks.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told CNN Saturday it was up to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to bring down the level of violence.

CNN's Matthew Chance asks if Israel's new clampdown will quell or fan the flames of Palestinian unrest and Mideast violence (December 15)

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One Palestinian on the street tells CNN's Rula Amin that "only God stands with them" against Israel (December 15)

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"Chairman Arafat is the one who has the primary responsibility of reducing the level of terrorism that is attacking Israel," he said on CNN's "Novak, Hunt and Shields."

"The Israeli government I think is legitimately trying to protect itself."

Meanwhile, Arafat is expected to use a strongly-worded speech Sunday to call for a halt to armed clashes, and will declare that peace is the only option.

On Saturday, an Israeli army spokesman said the army was pulling out of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

The Israeli army said the incursion was part of its continuing crackdown on Palestinian terrorist activities in Gaza and the West Bank.

The army said Hamas was planning attacks and was also firing against Israeli positions and perhaps even a Jewish settlement. Israel says the town is a center of Hamas activity.

Four Palestinians were killed and 48 wounded Saturday as thousands of Palestinians challenged an Israeli incursion into the town, Palestinian medical authorities said. Four of the wounded were critically hurt, the sources said.

Another Palestinian was killed in southern Gaza when an explosive charge he was carrying detonated on the "Green Line" separating Israel from the West Bank, Israeli police said.

A sixth Palestinian died when he tried to enter the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif, southern Gaza. The army said the alleged infiltrator appeared to have been on a suicide mission as he had explosives strapped to his body.

Arab foreign ministers are expected to meet next week in Cairo to discuss the escalating unrest in the region.

Palestinians called for the emergency meeting of the Arab League, which will be held December 20, said an Arab League official Saturday, on condition of anonymity.

The call came after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution early Saturday morning that would have established an international monitoring team to protect Palestinians and halt the escalating violence.


• Israeli Government
• Palestinian Authority
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Israel Defense Forces
• U.S. Department of State
• The White House
• United Nations

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