Palestinians agree to Israeli truce plan despite killing of six militants

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The Independent Online

The Palestinian cabinet accepted Israel's proposal to begin withdrawing troops from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for security guarantees yesterday, as Israeli troops hunting terrorist suspects killed six Palestinians in three raids.

The Palestinian cabinet accepted Israel's proposal to begin withdrawing troops from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for security guarantees yesterday, as Israeli troops hunting terrorist suspects killed six Palestinians in three raids.

The cabinet's approval was preliminary, pending an Israeli-Palestinian security meeting to discuss the details, Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian Planning Minister, said.

The decision may lead to an easing of Israel's military presence in Palestinian areas. Israeli forces hold some areas of Gaza run by the Palestinians and reoccupied seven of the West Bank's eight major towns and cities in June in an attempt to prevent attacks on Israelis.

Under the withdrawal plan presented earlier this week by the Israeli Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, troops would gradually begin withdrawing from Palestinian-ruled parts of Gaza and the West Bank town of Bethlehem in exchange for Palestinian guarantees that no attacks would be launched from these areas.

Israeli troops launched several strikes against Palestinian terrorist suspects yesterday.

In Bethlehem, troops arrested Yehiyeh Daamseh, a local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade militia and an explosives expert accused of sending several suicide bombers to Israel.

In a second raid, Israeli troops killed Ziad Daas, a local leader of the Al-Aqsa militia in the West Bank town of Tulkarm. Witnesses said Israeli commandos, backed by trucks, armoured vehicles and helicopters, surrounded Mr Daas's hideout yesterday morning. Gunmen opened fire from inside the building, and witnesses said Mr Daas was on the roof when he was shot by a sniper. Three other people were also killed in the fighting, Palestinian security officials said.

In the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, a 26-year-old Hamas activist, Hussam Hamdan, was shot dead as he was sat on the roof of his house, relatives said. The Islamist group held Israel responsible for Mr Hamdan's death.

Israel also sent tanks and helicopters into the northern Gaza Strip. Between 15 and 30 tanks and armoured vehicles, backed by helicopters, moved to within a kilometre of the Jebalya refugee camp north of Gaza City, firing shells and machine-guns at houses, Palestinian security officials and residents said.

A 28-year-old Palestinian policeman died after being shot in the head, apparently by a stray bullet, as he slept on his roof, hospital officials said.

* Israeli troops demolished four homes in the West Bank today ? two belonging to Palestinian suicide bombers, one to a man who supplied explosives for an attack and a fourth to a suspected bombing mastermind. The demolitions brought to 18 the number of houses of terror suspects demolished since Israel revived its controversial policy last month. (AP)

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