Israeli Army officials called the incursion a “pinpoint operation” and confirmed that arrests of terrorist suspects had been made.
Troops also entered the West Bank city of Nablus but no arrests were made and troops withdrew after several hours according to Palestinian witnesses.
Causalities reported in the West Bank and Gaza Strip included a 7-year-old boy who was shot inside his home, an armed Palestinian who tried to enter an Israeli settlement and an Israeli Arab woman who was shot when assailants fired on her taxi.
The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for several of the recent suicide bombing attacks in Israel, vowed that his faction would not stop the attacks as long as Israeli forces continue raids on Palestinian cities and towns.
“All attacks will go on. You cannot talk about ceasing attacks while your enemy is pursuing its incursions and its killings of civilians everywhere,” Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat cast doubt on his call earlier in the week for new elections, telling reporters that there would be no new vote until Israel ended its occupation of Palestinian territory.
Palestinian officials later clarified Arafat’s comments, saying Israel would have to withdraw to positions held before the latest outbreak of fighting began in September 2000. Such a withdrawal would require Israeli forces to remove several checkpoints and pull back troops positioned outside of Palestinian cities.
Arafat’s aides also said preparations have begun for presidential and parliamentary elections within six months.
Israeli officials dismissed Arafat’s demands, saying he is looking for an excuse not to face voters in a new round of elections.