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Israel mobilises more reservists

July 03, 2002

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TEL AVIV, July 2: The Israeli army on Tuesday drafted thousands of extra reservists to maintain its occupation of the West Bank, as envoys from the so-called “Quartet” were to discuss US ideas on the Middle East, including dumping Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Russian and EU officials have already voiced doubts about US President George W. Bush’s call to ditch Arafat as peace partner, but the Israeli government’s leading dove, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, hinted he too had given up on his fellow Nobel Peace Laureate.

The Israeli army started calling up thousands more reservists to serve with forces occupying the West Bank, public radio reported.

Parliament also passed a law extending the maximum call-up period for reservists to 37 days a year from 30 and giving the army the option to call them up six times a year for 24 hours.

Israel has re-occupied seven of the eight main towns and cities in the area since launching Operation Determined Path last month, which the Jewish state says aimed to smash the Palestinian militant groups behind a series of devastating suicide bombings.

The army briefly pulled out of Qalqilya in the northwest for several hours Tuesday before returning, Israeli media reports said.

Troops also raided several West Bank villages, arresting a leader of the hardline Islamic Jihad and a number of other suspects, including several students detained when they turned up to exams at Al Khalil polytechnic.

Two Al Khalil security chiefs were also briefly detained.—AFP