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Israeli forces raid W. Bank compound

Looking for militants, troops today seize facilities of a Palestinian intelligence agency.

March 07, 2007|Special to The Times

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Israeli troops raided a Palestinian military compound here early today and detained at least 40 men in one of the biggest operations in the Palestinian Authority capital in five years.

Soldiers in dozens of vehicles and two bulldozers surrounded a branch of the Palestinian military intelligence agency during the 2:45 a.m. assault and met little resistance, Israeli and Palestinian spokesmen said.

The Israelis fired stun grenades, shot rifles into the air, called over loudspeakers for everyone inside to surrender and then entered the compound, witnesses said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the raid, a four-hour joint operation by the army and Israel's domestic intelligence service, was aimed at wanted Palestinian militants who had taken refuge in the compound. She said 18 militants were arrested.

Palestinian security officials said many other men, including members of the intelligence service, were still being held.

The Israeli military spokeswoman said the arrested men were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and several other irregular armed groups, and had been involved in armed attacks or kidnapping attempts against Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The Israelis also seized a cache of weapons, including seven pipe bombs, three handguns, a hand grenade, an assault rifle and several bulletproof vests, the spokeswoman said.

The compound, in the southern part of the city, consists of a three-story building and about 10 one-story houses used as sleeping quarters.

As the raid got underway, Israeli soldiers took over a three-story apartment building near the compound and used it as an observation post, residents said.

"There must have been 100 army vehicles. The Israelis were everywhere, and the shooting went on all night," said Ismail Ahmed, the 65-year-old patriarch of the family that lives in the building's six apartments.

Ahmed said the 30 members of his clan were herded into one of the apartments while the soldiers occupied the rest.

The raid came a week after an Israeli sweep through the northern West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin in search of wanted militants.

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