msnbc.com news services
updated 3/28/2005 7:29:20 AM ET 2005-03-28T12:29:20

Israeli forces raided the Palestinian city of Jenin on Monday, arresting eight militants Israeli security sources said were involved in making crude rockets and mortars for attacks against Israeli towns.

The raid was a rare invasion into a West Bank city by the Israeli military since the army said it would carry out only essential operations after Israel and the Palestinian Authority declared a de facto truce in February.

An Israeli soldier was lightly wounded by an explosive device during the operation in which five Islamic Jihad militants were arrested in Jenin and three in a nearby village.

Israeli forces located a workshop last month on the outskirts of Jenin where they found components for crude rockets capable of being fired at the nearby Israeli city of Afula.

Israeli media said the militants arrested early on Monday were connected to the cell that had produced the rocket parts, adding the militants were trying to produce munitions similar to the Qassam rockets that militants in Gaza have regularly fired at the Israeli town of Sderot and Jewish settlements in Gaza.

Image: Israeli Prime Minister Sharon
Gil Cohen Magen  /  Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to reject a bill to submit his Gaza pullout plan to a national referendum.
Israel has handed over two West Bank cities to Palestinian security control over the past month, but it on Sunday delayed the transfer of the city of Qalqilya because it said the Palestinians had failed to confiscate weapons from militants.

The delay was a setback for security cooperation agreed at a cease-fire summit last month. Israel has not yet said when it would transfer control of Jenin, a hotbed for militant factions.

Sharon gains opposition pledge
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won a pledge from Israel’s key opposition Shinui party on Saturday to back a crucial budget vote, averting a possible government collapse and clearing the way for a Gaza withdrawal.

The vote on the budget, which has to be passed by March 31 to avoid an early election, is the last hurdle in parliament for Sharon’s plan to evacuate Jewish settlers this summer from the occupied Gaza Strip, which Palestinians seek as part of a state.

Opponents of the withdrawal, including rebels in Sharon’s own right-wing Likud party, hoped to use the budget as a way of thwarting a plan that has been touted as a step towards Middle East peace negotiations with Palestinians.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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