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Sources: Israeli troops surround Nablus camp

NABLUS, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli tanks and troops entered the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus early Friday, officials on both sides said.

Palestinian security sources told CNN that 13 armored personnel carriers and 10 tanks had surrounded the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. They reported heavy Israeli machine gun fire and tank shelling.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed an operation was under way but would not comment further.

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CIA Director George Tenet is scheduled to depart Friday for the Middle East for consultations with Israeli and Palestinian security officials as well as others to discuss the prospects for renewed security cooperation between the two sides, officials said.

Tenet proposed a cease-fire and security plan in June 2001 that urged Israeli and Palestinian security organizations to reaffirm commitments to agreements under the April 2001 Mitchell report.

The Mitchell report calls for a resumption of security cooperation, a halt to the construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, a denunciation of terrorism and resumption of peace talks.

Neither of these cease-fire plans have yet been implemented, and Israeli-Palestinian violence has continued steadily since a monthlong Israeli offensive in the West Bank -- following a series of Palestinian terror attacks -- ended in early May.

After a four-day operation, the Israeli army Thursday pulled out of positions in and around the Bethlehem area, Palestinian security sources said.

Israeli troops raided the city Sunday night to search for Palestinian militants. Troops also entered the Deheishe refugee camp west of the West Bank city.

The Bethlehem incursion was the second raid into the city since Saturday. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called the city a "nest of terror."

In a series of raids elsewhere in the West Bank early Thursday, Israeli troops arrested 12 Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

IDF troops entered Hebron overnight Wednesday, arrested four Palestinians and then left the city. Israeli forces also arrested six Palestinians in the village of Faroun near Tulkarem and two in the village of Deir Istiya near Qalqilya.

-- CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 







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