Israeli Army Arrests Foreigners
In Ramallah


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli army said on Sunday it had arrested "several" foreigners who had defied its closure order on the West Bank city of Ramallah, where troops were on what it called an "anti-terrorist" offensive.
The Ramallah-based International Media Center said 10 members of an international group who marched into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the city were arrested by the surrounding troops, and that 33 others remained inside.
The army earlier said Ramallah was a closed military zone and that non-residents, including foreign journalists, would be removed by force "if necessary." It said the foreign detainees were being held at a nearby base and could be prosecuted.
The government also told media organizations later Sunday that it would be strictly applying rules under which journalists must submit reports about defense matters to a military censor.
Daniel Seaman, the director of the Government Press Office, said journalists who violated the latest instructions would have their accreditation removed.
He also said any Palestinians found working in Israel for foreign news organizations without the proper documentation would risk arrest. Repeated violations could result in heavy fines and the closure of foreign media offices, he said.
Israeli troops and tanks have tightened a siege on Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared him Israel's enemy Friday and set out to isolate him in an attempt to halt a recent wave of suicide attacks.
The Palestinian leader has been confined to Ramallah by the army since early December.
Sharon said in a state address Sunday that Israel was engaged in a "war against terrorism," which Israeli officials said could last weeks.
The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel protested against the army's decision.
"The media must be allowed to cover this major story. We call upon the Israeli government to allow free and independent coverage of the operation in Palestinian Authority areas," the FPA said in a statement.
The army has already taken over the Ramallah offices of foreign news organizations, including Reuters, forcing them out. It has remained there, despite protests by Reuters and the FPA.
At least two journalists working for foreign news media have been injured in Ramallah since Israel sent troops to the city.
An army spokesman said the international sympathizers who entered Arafat's headquarters had ignored soldiers who tried to stop them entering. "In doing so they endangered their lives and the lives of the soldiers," he said.
Claude Leostic, one of the group, told Reuters: "We just walked into the compound. No one tried to stop us, surprisingly enough, until we got to the compound. The tanks started to move and we continued, and got to the door."
Several of the group were later arrested.
Israel has agreed not to harm Arafat, who has said he would rather die than surrender. He has also vowed an 18-month-old uprising against Israeli occupation will continue.

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