RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Israeli tanks and troops charged into Ramallah before sunrise Monday, surrounding the compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and arresting 20 suspected militants in searches throughout the city.
The latest Israeli incursion into Palestinian territory came on a day when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was scheduled to meet President Bush at the White House.
In another development, Palestinian police on Sunday arrested a senior leader of the militant group Islamic Jihad, which carried out a suicide attack last Wednesday that killed 17 Israelis.
Sheik Abdullah Shami, the Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip, was arrested in his neighborhood in Gaza City, group officials said. Arafat's leadership issued orders to arrest Islamic Jihad members after the Wednesday bombing.
In Ramallah, the Israeli raid was aimed at arresting Palestinian suspects, and the soldiers surrounded Arafat's compound to prevent Palestinian gunmen from seeking refuge there, the army said. The military did not attack the compound itself, as it did last Thursday, when it blew up three buildings in retaliation for the Palestinian suicide bombing a day earlier.
Arafat was inside the battered compound Monday and was unharmed, Palestinian officials said.
One Palestinian man was killed and two were wounded in exchanges of fire in the streets of Ramallah, Palestinian doctors said. Two soldiers were also wounded, the army said.
"This operation is part of our continuous effort to root out terrorism," Israeli government spokesman Arie Mekel said. He called it a "short-term" operation, but declined to be more specific.
The incursion came a day after Arafat announced a revamped Cabinet, and Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Sharon's intention was "to prevent the reform process." The new Cabinet was to meet at the compound on Monday, but could not because of the Israeli move.
"He wants to weaken the Palestinian Authority and to destroy the Palestinian infrastructure," Abed Rabbo said.
The incursion began around 4 a.m. Monday when tanks, armored personnel carriers, jeeps and infantry on foot entered Ramallah, which is just a few miles north of Jerusalem.
The Israeli army said 27 suspects were arrested in Ramallah, and additional arrests were made in other nighttime raids in other parts of the West Bank.
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