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Mideast Hit List?

Amid a surge in Mideast violence, the Israelis and Palestinians have both issued warnings that hinted at more bloodshed.

Tens of thousands of mourners, chanting for revenge, marched on Monday in a joint funeral procession in Tulkarm for two Palestinians killed in the West Bank on Sunday.

Israel published a list of seven "main terrorists" it wants arrested by the Palestinians — with the implication that they could be targeted for attack if they remain free.

Asking For Help
Pledging to do his part to restore calm, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is asking U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to persuade Israel to stop its assassinations and begin carrying out confidence-building measures.

In a letter to Powell signed by Nabil Shaath, a senior Arafat aide and Palestinian mediator, the Palestinian leader described the situation as serious. The letter said the Palestinian Authority was ready to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission, Hassan Abdel Rahman, chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United States, said Monday.

The letter called on the United States "to move expeditiously to persuade Israel and Mr. (Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon to stop the killing, the assassination of community leaders and to stop illegal practices, such as demolition of houses and the economic state of siege." (AP)

But Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Israel must first take action against its own militants before the Authority Could consider demands to detain the seven Palestinians.

"The Israeli government should arrest 50 persons…armed settlers — and they are active as terrorists and killers," he said, citing the killing last month by suspected Jewish vigilantes of three Palestinians including a baby boy.

Israel has carried out repeated raids inside the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to strike at suspected militants, killing about 50 Palestinians in the targeted attacks, including a helicopter strike Sunday in the West Bank that killed a member of the radical Hamas movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the Israeli strikes are preventive measures to stop terror attacks.

"The Palestinian Authority is heading and directing a coalition of terrorist organizations," he told visiting leaders from the Hadassah organizatin in Jerusalem. "We are exercising our right of self-defense against indiscriminate murders and killing of innocent men, women and children."

Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian figure who was nearly hit by an Israeli missile over the weekend, said Monday that no place in Israel was immune from attack.

Barghouti spoke at a press conference a day after a Palestinian gunman opened fire outside the Israeli Defense Ministry in the center of Tel Aviv, wounding 10 people, most of them soldiers. The gunman was shot and killed.

"What happened yesterday in Tel Aviv was a clear message to the Israelis that no place can be restricted from the Palestinians as long as the Israelis do not respect Palestinian sovereignty," Barghouti said in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

In an attack on Saturday, helicopters fired two missiles and wounded one of Barghouti's bodyguards who was traveling in a car outside Barghouti's office.

According to Israel, the bodyguard was responsible for several attacks against Israel and was the target of the raid. Barghouti, who was in a separate car, was shaken but unhurt.

The List
The men on the list, all of whom Israel claims to have connected to suicide bombings or other attacks:
  • Raad Mohammed Raif Karmi, 27, Fatah
  • Thabet Azami Suleiman Mardawi, 25, Islamic Jihad
  • Mahmoud Ahmed Tualba, 22, Islamic Jihad
  • Kamel Najib Abu-Wa'ar, 27, Fatah and Force 17
  • Ahad Yussuf Olama, 33, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
  • Mussa Mohammed Kulab, 30, Hamas
  • Nabil Hassan Srihi, 26, Islamic Jihad
  • Citing Israel's "assassination policy," Amin al-Hindi, Palestinian intelligence chief for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said on Sunday that the Palestinians had suspended weekly U.S.-hosted security talks with Israel two weeks ago.

    The United States, Israel's guardian ally, and other countries have condemned the policy described by Israeli leaders as active self-defense.

    Israel, meanwhile, has already demanded that the Palestinians arrest about 100 suspected militants, but did not publicly release the names. The new list, published Sunday, gave the names and hometowns of the seven men, along with the attacks that Israel says they organized or carried out.

    Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has not staged a crackdown against Palestinian militants, and says it has no intenion to do so amid the current conflict, now more than 10 months old.

    If Arafat were to arrest members of militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it could produce a backlash against his leadership.

    In a series of violent episodes Sunday, a total of three Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. The past week has seen a rise in fighting, with more than 20 Palestinians killed.

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    A pregnant Israeli woman shot dead while traveling in a car in the West Bank was the first Israeli to be killed in more than a week. But Israel's security forces say Palestinian militants have been attempting to carry out major attacks, but have been thwarted in several instances.

    Also Sunday, Israeli helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian police offices in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli raid followed repeated mortar attacks by the Palestinians.

    On Monday, Israeli troops captured a Palestinian in the West Bank who was on his way to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, according to Israel's defense minister.

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    No explosive device was found on the Palestinian, but he was to pick one up before heading to Tel Aviv, said Yarden Vatikay, spokesman for Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

    Ben-Eliezer said the Hamas activist killed in Sunday's missile attack, Amer Hudeiri, was to have given an explosives belt to the would-be Palestinian suicide bomber.

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