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Nine Palestinians killed in West Bank

Erakat says Israel trying to sabotage faction talks in Cairo

Israeli soldiers look for Palestinian rock-throwers Thursday in the West Bank town of Nablus.
Israeli soldiers look for Palestinian rock-throwers Thursday in the West Bank town of Nablus.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Nine Palestinians were killed Thursday as Israel launched a series of operations in the West Bank and Gaza in an attempt to arrest Palestinian militants.

Israeli troops Thursday also re-entered Bethlehem and imposed a curfew, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. The troops had withdrawn to the edge of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.

In addition, Israeli military sources said they would use new tactics against Palestinians trying to infiltrate Jewish settlements, including creating a 300-meter-wide "special security zone" outside the security fence protecting each settlement. (See story)

Palestinians charged Israel was trying to expand the buffer zones to confiscate more Palestinian land.

Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat accused the Israeli government of trying to sabotage talks between Palestinian factions in Cairo.

"It is an attempt by Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon to sabotage the efforts of the Egyptian government to bring about a cease-fire from all Palestinian factions," Erakat said.

Officials from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement and those from the radical Islamic groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were meeting with Egyptian officials in Cairo in an attempt to reach an agreement on a cease-fire that would end attacks on Israelis.

Hamas is a radical Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted launching terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.

Fatah is the mainstream faction and Palestinian nationalist movement of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It is dedicated to the formation of an independent Palestinian state.

Along with the mainstream organization, Fatah also is linked to several splinter groups, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- a military offshoot that has carried out numerous attacks against military targets and civilians in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad operates out of Gaza and carries out attacks in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. It introduced suicide bombings to Israel in 1992.

Sharon has said there will be no negotiations with the Palestinians until violence against Israelis stops.

"The Israeli government announcement to put in buffer zones around settlements is a further attempt by Prime Minister Sharon to kill the road map to peace, to expand settlements and to create facts on the ground," Erakat said. "[U.S. President] Bush's vision of a Palestinian state by 2005 will never be realized."

Deaths in Nablus, Tulkarem, Ramallah and Gaza

Two Palestinians were killed in the West Bank town of Nablus, according to Palestinian sources. One was a 15-year-old, the sources said. The other was killed by Israeli soldiers when he opened fire on a patrol, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, IDF sources said Israeli troops in Tulkarem killed a wanted Palestinian after he ran away when they tried to arrest him.

The troops called for him to stop and fired a shot into the air. When the man refused to stop after the warning, they opened fire and killed him, the sources said.

Israel Radio identified the man as Jamal Nadr, 28, head of one of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades cells in Tulkarem. Palestinian security sources confirmed the man was an Al Aqsa member.

Israeli troops also killed three people, one of them identified as a Hamas member, in three incidents in Ramallah, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

Israeli military sources said troops attempted to arrest two wanted Palestinians in a car. When troops approached, one man got out and opened fire, the sources said. The troops returned fire and killed him. The second Palestinian was arrested.

Palestinian sources said a 19-year-old Palestinian was killed a short while later.

In the third incident, an IDF spokesman said troops killed a member of the Fatah militia when he refused orders to stop and surrender. Four Palestinians were wounded in the incident.

Hours earlier in the West Bank village of Qabatiya, the IDF said troops killed a top Islamic Jihad member they were trying to arrest after he opened fire and lobbed grenades at them. Four Israeli soldiers were injured, one seriously, the IDF said.

Palestinian security sources said the man was Hamza Abu Roub, a top Islamic Jihad member. Israeli troops blew up his house after the incident, the IDF said.

Separately, another Israeli soldier was injured by Palestinian gunfire overnight in Nablus, according to the IDF.

The IDF said its troops arrested nine Palestinians across the West Bank in overnight operations: six in Nahalin near Bethlehem, one in Beit Sahur -- also near Bethlehem -- and two in Katana, near Ramallah.

Three Palestinians were arrested in the Gush Katif junction in Gaza, according to the IDF.

Also in Gaza, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians trying to infiltrate the settlement of Netzarim in northern Gaza Wednesday night, according to the IDF. Palestinian security sources said the men were Hamas members attempting an attack.

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