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Israel army leaves West Bank towns

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli army has withdrawn from the West Bank towns of Jenin and the A-Tira neighborhood in Ramallah, Israel Defense Forces have told CNN.

The withdrawal took place overnight, the IDF said on Thursday.

In addition, IDF said the checkpoint at Ramin has been opened near the city of Tulkarem.

"IDF forces will continue to implement the plan to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population according to the political instructions," an IDF statement said.

The move out of the West Bank towns comes just ahead of U.S. Mideast peace envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni's return to the region Thursday.

Zinni left the Middle East in the midst of escalating violence following the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister. Much of the violence has since subsided.

An Israeli infantry force backed by tanks rolled into Qabatiya, near Jenin earlier this week to arrest three Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities. Among those arrested for questioning was Hamas member Zacraneh.

Israeli forces left Qabatiya once the operation was complete. An M-16 assault rifle found with the men was confiscated.

Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist group known among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for actions such as building schools, hospitals and helping the community in social and religious ways.

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Quassam, has carried out military and terrorist operations against Israelis.

Arafat has come under increasing pressure from the United States, Israel and Europe to crack down on terrorists in territory under Palestinian control since the latest string of suicide attacks began in Israel in early December.




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