JERUSALEM Ñ Israel's military has captured one of Hamas's top
operatives in the West Bank.
Israeli troops arrested Adnan Asfour in the West Bank city of Nablus
over the weekend. Israeli sources said Asfour has become the leading
operative in the Nablus region and the spokesman of the group in the entire
Special operations forces surrounded Asfour's hideout, located in his
brother's five-story apartment building on Sunday. The sources said after
the building was evacuated Asfour was arrested and a computer as well as
maps were seized.
The arrest of Asfour, 38, was regarded as the key achievement in a
nearly week-long Israeli military operation in the Nablus area. Israeli
searched for suicide bombers and their handlers in Nablus as well as the
adjacent Balata refugee camp.
The search operation in Balata was often conducted from house to house.
In some cases, Palestinians hurled firebombs and stones at soldiers, who
responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The capture of Asfour came as Palestinian Authority sources assert that
the United States has tried to persuade Hamas to agree to a ceasefire with
Israel. The sources said that in October former State Department officials
met Hamas through Qatar and Syria, which have been harboring senior
operatives of the insurgency group. Hamas has denied the reported contacts.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has received a letter from 13
reserve members of the elite General Reconnaissance Forces, or Sayeret
Matcal. The letter announced that the soldiers would no longer serve in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This was the second time that elite reserve soldiers have announced
their refusal to join in operations in PA areas. During the summer, 27
reserve air force pilots said they would no longer participate in air
missions against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.