Israel moves against Hamas in Ramallah
Arafat calls for end to 'military madness'
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Israeli troops and armored vehicles sealed off the center of Ramallah Tuesday night in what Israeli military sources said was a pinpoint operation against the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
Elsewhere, Palestinian sources said two Palestinians were killed in Gaza in a confrontation with Israeli troops in the town of Rafah.
Israeli forces have been searching tunnels in the Rafah area they say are used to smuggle arms from Egypt into Gaza.
Israeli sources reported three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, but no damage or injuries were reported.
The rocket firings came one day after the Israeli military staged five airstrikes in Gaza that officials said were aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks and destroying weapons factories. Twelve people were killed.
In Ramallah, the Israeli military sources said troops searched people leaving the Abdul Nasser Mosque.
The sources said troops were after the "Hamas infrastructure" but gave no details. Hamas is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Witnesses said about 20 vehicles carrying Israeli troops entered the center of the city. The troops declared a curfew and began conducting searches. Witnesses also reported hearing shots fired.
The operation ended around 10:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. EDT) and no arrests were made, an Israel Defense Forces official said.
The area is not near Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's compound.
Earlier Tuesday, Arafat responded to Monday's airstrikes in Gaza by calling on the international community "to stop this military madness in which they aim to destroy the Holy Land and this steadfast people."
Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defended the strikes, saying Israel had stopped a vehicle on its way to carry out a "massive terrorist attack."
"Israel is left with no choice but to thwart such attacks in order to protect its civilians and keep its population safe," Gold said.
Monday's airstrikes followed weekend Palestinian Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli targets and a West Bank ambush that killed three Israeli soldiers, according to the IDF. There were no casualties reported from the rocket attacks.
Palestinian security and medical sources said the deadliest of the Gaza airstrikes killed nine people in the Nusseirat refuge camp and wounded nearly 100, 15 critically.
Israeli military sources said the strike came after the IDF identified members of a terrorist cell trying to slip into Israel.
Two cell members approached a fence near a kibbutz and the soldiers opened fire, hitting them both, the military sources said.
The other cell members drove away and Israeli helicopter gunships chased them and fired two missiles at their vehicle, the Israeli military sources said. Palestinian security sources said one missile hit the car and another hit the street.
Israeli officials said both occupants of the vehicle killed in the attack were Hamas members.
Elsewhere, three people were killed in an airstrike on a vehicle carrying Hamas militants and weapons, Palestinian medical and security sources said. Hamas sources said two members of its military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, were killed along with a civilian bystander.
Israeli officials were on high alert after Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group, vowed revenge against Israel and Palestinians who collaborate with Israel.
Islamic Jihad, also labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, claimed responsibility for an October 4 terrorist suicide bombing of a crowded restaurant in Haifa, Israel, that killed 19 people. (Full story)
Izzedine al Qassam has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
U.N. weighs in on wall
Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Tuesday demanding that Israel halt construction of its security barrier in the West Bank.
The vote was 144 in favor, four against, and 12 abstentions. The United States voted against the resolution. (Full story)