Israeli Army In New
Raids Before Powell Visit


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli army, under U.S. pressure to end a West Bank offensive, launched fresh raids into two Palestinian towns and a refugee camp on Thursday but said it had withdrawn from dozens of other places in the past 24 hours.
Just hours before Secretary of State Colin Powell was due to arrive in Israel on a peace mission, the army said its forces swept into the towns of Bir Zeit and Dahariya and the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp, making arrests and seizing weapons.
Palestinian witnesses said troops ordered students out of their dormitories at Bir Zeit University, the West Bank's largest university and a stronghold of nationalism, and detained several students. Soldiers also imposed a curfew and seized the town's main government building.
The raids were part of a 13-day-old military campaign launched by Israel on March 29 after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 27 Israelis in a seaside hotel. Israel has so far defied U.S. pressure to end the offensive.
The army said it had pulled out of 24 towns and villages over the past day, but it gave no indication when it would withdraw from Palestinian cities and other areas it has occupied since the offensive began.

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