Army seized weapons in WBank town: Palestine

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Nablus, West Bank, Nov 10: Palestinian security forces have seized explosive devices and home-made munitions as part of a campaign to curb militant actions in the West Bank city of Nablus, the local police chief said today.

Since the start of the month hundreds of Palestinian security officers have deployed in Nablus in what is planned as the first stage of a Western-backed drive to improve law and order ahead of a peace conference with Israel.

''The police and other security forces have seized dozens of suspicious objects and home-made explosive devices...we found more than 100 devices and suspect objects hidden in various places and we have detonated many of them,'' police chief Ahmad Sharqawi told Reuters.

Israel, which is trying to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against his Hamas rivals, approved the deployment in the flashpoint city. If it is successful, Palestinian forces could deploy in other West Bank towns, Israeli officials say.

Nablus, home to 200,000 Palestinians, has been a bastion for militants since a Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, began in 2000.

Israel seized control of West Bank cities handed to the Palestinian Authority under the 1993 interim Oslo peace deal after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising and had barred security forces from operating in them until recently.

Israel launches frequent raids against Palestinian militants in Nablus and controls the entrance to the city through checkpoints, which it says are needed to stop suicide bombers.

Palestinians call Israel's network of West Bank checkpoints collective punishment. Palestinian government officials have expressed concern that continued raids by Israeli troops could jeopardise the experiment.

''Our goal in this campaign is to protect the lives of the citizens and their property and to clean the town totally of any suspect objects,'' Sharqawi said.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are trying to narrow differences over establishing a Palestinian state ahead of a US-backed Middle East peace conference expected to be held before the end of the year.

Reuters>

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