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French Version

King Abdullah urges US to 'take risks' for peace

Israelis detain 18 palestinians in raid on ramallah intelligence headquarters

Israeli troops stormed a military intelligence headquarters in Ramallah on Wednesday and detained some 18 Palestinians amid reports that the Palestinian president and premier were planning to ask militant groups to extend a cease-fire with the Jewish state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya of Hamas discussed the prospects of a broad cease-fire with leaders of some factions late Tuesday, Palestinian officials said.

In Washington, Jordan's King Abdullah II on Wednesday called on the United States to help end the "bitter legacy of disappointment and despair" in the Palestinian Territories and to "take risks" to help achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Speaking to a joint meeting of Congress, Abdullah said that history has shown no progress in the peace process is possible without American leadership.

"We look to you to play a historic role," he said, adding that results are needed "not in one year or five years but this year."

"The goal must be a peace in which all sides gain," he said. "There must be a peace in which Israelis will be part of the neighborhood."

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, about 100 Israeli Army vehicles surrounded the building in the early hours, with troops ordering people to come out before they moved in.

The Israeli Army said it had arrested 18 people who heeded its call through loudspeakers to surrender. The army said they were involved in shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers and in attempts to kidnap Israelis.

But Palestinian military intelligence director General Majed Faraj said the army had detained 55 members of his service and five other Palestinians in an adjacent building.

Faraj said soldiers had opened fire and launched grenades before entering the building, where they ransacked offices and confiscated assault rifles and pistols he said were the legal property of his force.

Palestinian security sources said the detainees belonged to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and were also members of Palestinian security services.

One Palestinian security official accused Israel of violating a 2005 truce agreement whereby it would stop pursuing fugitive militants, allowing them to be absorbed into Palestinian security services.

"Those Al-Aqsa Brigades members were staying [in the compound] overnight because they are actual security force members. They were not hiding," the official said.

The Palestinian Authority criticized the raid, which took place ahead of a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Palestinian officials say will take place on Sunday.

"This act could have grave consequences and compromise efforts aimed at installing calm," chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP.

A spokeswoman for Olmert, Miri Eisin, said Israel had to act with its security in mind.

"The issue of the fugitives is an issue which was brought up by the Palestinians. And Israel's issue is that the Palestinians are not doing anything about terrorism," she said, declining further comment pending the military's report on the detainees.

"The Palestinian Authority was repeatedly requested to hand the men over to Israeli authorities or at the very least remove them from the compound, but to no avail," an Israeli security source said.

On the political front, Palestinian officials said Erekat had asked leaders of Islamic Jihad and other militant factions to meet them later on Wednesday to continue to explore the possibility of a wider cease-fire.

A source close to the two leaders' talks on forming a unity government said Abbas wants to raise the idea when he meets Olmert. But a senior leader of Islamic Jihad said it opposed the idea raised in negotiations on finalizing a unity government.

"We cannot talk about calm while the Zionist aggression is continuing against our Palestinian people in the West Bank and the escalation against Islamic Jihad members and leaders," the leader, Khaled al-Batsh, said.

Eisin also brushed aside the proposal for a wider cease-fire. "We need to see that you can actually implement the cease-fire [in Gaza] before we can consider an extension," she said.

Even if a cease-fire were extended, Eisin said Israel would not back away from its demands that the new Palestinian government recognize Israel, renounce armed struggle and accept interim peace deals. "Those principles are not for negotiation," she said.

The Daily Star

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