Arafat tells men wanted by Israel to leave compound
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Four Palestinians wanted by Israel have left Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound at his request, a brother of one of the Palestinians said Thursday.
The men departed the compound just before midnight Wednesday, the brother said, after they were told it was in "the national interest" for them to leave.
According to a Palestinian security source, Israeli authorities learned that the Palestinians were using Arafat's office as a hideout. On Monday, Israeli authorities told Palestinian security officials that the men must leave the compound, the security source said.
It is not known why Israeli authorities are looking for the men.
Wednesday's late-night departure was not the first time that Israel has forced Palestinians from Arafat's West Bank headquarters.
On March 29, 2002, Israeli forces stormed the compound, beginning a four-and-a-half-week siege that ended when six Palestinians hiding out there were arrested and taken to a Jericho jail. Five of the six were wanted by Israel in the 2001 killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.
Israeli sources: Troops kill 3 militants
Thursday's departure of the wanted men from the compound came as Israel continued military operations in the Palestinian territories aimed at rooting out suspected terrorists and terrorist leaders.
Early Thursday, Israeli troops killed three wanted Palestinian militants near the Nur-a-Shams refugee camp in the West Bank, according to Israeli military sources.
Based on intelligence information, Israeli forces confronted the members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, killing them when they approached Israeli soldiers with their weapons drawn, the sources said. (Full story)
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a military offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement that has carried out numerous attacks against military targets and civilians in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. In March 2002, the U.S. State Department designated it as a foreign terrorist organization.
On Saturday in Gaza, Israel continued its policy of targeted killings of leaders of terrorist organizations. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas -- another group labled by the U.S. State Department and Israel as a terrorist organization -- became the second Hamas leader in a month to be killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization with a military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, that has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
For protection, Hamas has chosen -- but not identified -- Rantisi's successor, according to sources in Izzedine al Qassam.
Israel's planned pullout
A week ago President Bush endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for a total Israeli pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Bush denied the United States was taking sides in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sharon's "disengagement" plan would allow six blocs of Jewish settlements to remain in the West Bank.
Palestinians say the plan unfairly bypasses proposed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations about the future of the West Bank settlements as called for in the so-called "road map" to Mideast peace, backed by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The road map calls for steps by both sides aimed at ending the conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005.
The Israeli disengagement plan also includes the building of a security barrier -- already under construction -- that Israel says will block Palestinians from attacking Israel from the West Bank.
Palestinians call the barrier a land grab, saying it leaves many Palestinians cut off from farms, schools and hospitals as it winds its way through portions of the West Bank.