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Israeli gunship guns down Palestinian
Associated Press WriterJERUSALEM (AP) -- An Israeli helicopter on Wednesday gunned down a Palestinian accused of involvement in a string of deadly suicide attacks, hours after troops entered a northern West Bank town Wednesday and arrested suspected militants.
The operations came amid extremely tight security in central Israel, and Israeli media reported there were concrete warnings of a planned attack. Five Israelis were killed in two shooting attacks Sunday.
The helicopter gunship fired a rocket at a barn in the West Bank town of Hebron, killing Jamil Jadallah, the army said. Witnesses said he had been hiding out in his aunt's barn, knowing Israel considered him one of the most wanted militants.
Jadallah was planning an attack on Israel and had been involved in previous suicide bombings, including the June 1 attack at a Tel Aviv disco that killed the bomber and 21 others, an army statement said. He had escaped from a Palestinian jails four times, the statement said.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed Jadallah had been jailed and last escaped more than a year ago. The militant group Islamic Jihad called the killing "the ugly assassination" and said it would be avenged. Israel's army, however, had said Jadallah was a member of Hamas.
Earlier, Israeli tanks backed by helicopters entered the northern town of Arrabeh, near Jenin, before dawn and surrounded the home of a suspected militant, witnesses said. Troops arrested eight people, three of them activists from Islamic Jihad and one from Hamas, Mayor Anwar Izzadin said.
The army said it arrested six people, two of them members of Islamic Jihad who were planning a suicide attack in Israel, an army statement said.
Three Palestinians were injured in gunfire exchanges as the tanks moved into the town, the mayor said. One Israeli soldier was slightly wounded before troops pulled out, the army said.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a Sunday attack in the coastal city of Hadera that killed four Israeli women and the two attackers.
Israel has complained the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to stop Palestinian militants, and says its hold on Palestinian towns is necessary to stop potential attackers.
Israel has insisted that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority must pledge to stop attacks against Israelis and arrest suspected militants before it will withdraw its troops.
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department renewed its call on Israel to move its forces out of Palestinian territory. Under strong U.S. pressure, Israel left Bethlehem and Beit Jalla on Sunday. But troops remain in four other towns.
Israeli forces started moving into the Palestinian towns after the Oct. 17 assassination of ultranationalist Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, claimed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as revenge for Israel's killing of PFLP leader Mustafa Zibri. Israel accused Zibri of plotting attacks against Israelis.
In 13 months of fighting, 731 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 191 on the Israeli side.
Early Wednesday in Tulkarem, one of the towns Israeli troops entered, an Israeli tank fired at a member of Hamas, seriously injuring him, Palestinian security officials said. The army was checking the report.
In Gaza, Israeli tanks fired shells at buildings in the Rafah refugee camp near the Egyptian border, Palestinian security officials said, setting fire to three houses. Three people were injured, doctors said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he expected to meet Arafat in Spain during a weekend economic conference in the first high-level contact since the incursions began. But he said they would not conduct negotiations.
Peres, who won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for starting the Israel-Palestinian peace process, said Tuesday that he has prepared a draft of a new peace plan.
Interviewed on Israel TV, he said that the plan includes immediate creation of a Palestinian state "as soon as we can reach an agreement."
Peres represents the moderate Labor party in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's broad-based coalition government. Sharon has also spoken of a Palestinian state, but is expected to be far less generous in any offers.