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updated 5/2/2005 2:20:55 AM ET 2005-05-02T06:20:55

An Israeli soldier was killed in a West Bank clash on Monday in which a Palestinian gunman also died, Al Jazeera television reported.

The Arabic satellite station quoted Israeli sources as saying the clash occurred in the village of Sida near Tulkarem, one of three cities handed over to Palestinian Authority security control under a truce declared in February.

Israeli troops staged raids in the Tulkarem area Sunday and Monday, re-entering the northern West Bank town for the first time since returning it to Palestinian control in March.

Palestinian officials condemned the incursion as a violation of agreements between the two sides.

Palestinian security officials said Israeli special forces entered Tulkarem before dawn and arrested 18-year-old Mohammed Shalhoub. Israeli military officials said Shalhoub was an Islamic Jihad militant preparing an imminent suicide attack against Israelis and had already filmed the video testament often left by suicide bombers.

Shalhoub’s sister Manar was shot dead three years ago as she attempted to stab an Israeli soldier.

Palestinians say raid illegal
Tulkarem Gov. Azzadin A-Sharif said he had registered a complaint with Israeli authorities over the incursion, which he said was a breach of the handover agreement.

“They need to coordinate with us when they want to enter,” he told The Associated Press. “This is against all the agreements.”

Israeli military officials said the agreement gave Israel the right to re-enter Palestinian territory in cases where a Palestinian attack was imminent.

On Monday, Israeli troops entered a village just outside Tulkarem, shooting dead a member of the Islamic Jihad group in Seideh who fired at the advancing soldiers, Israeli Army radio reported. Seideh was not part of the March handover and is still under Israeli control.

Israel pledged to turn over five West Bank towns to Palestinian security control as part of a Feb. 8 cease-fire agreement, but only Tulkarem and Jericho have actually been transferred. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said last week he was putting further handovers on hold until the Palestinian Authority fulfilled a pledge to disarm militants in the two towns they already control.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he preferred to use persuasion to maintain calm. However, Abbas took a firmer tone last week, warning militants he would use force against anyone who violated the truce.

Both sides crack down on militants
Palestinian militants have been firing mortar and rocket barrages at Gaza settlements in recent weeks in an effort to make it appear that they are pushing Israel out of the volatile coastal strip. Israel plans to pull out of Gaza this summer.

Abbas has also promised to reform his corrupt and often competing security forces.

On Sunday, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef met with officials in the southern Gaza Strip towns of Rafah and Khan Younis and told them the security forces would begin working to bring stability to chaotic Palestinian towns.

According to participants at the meeting in Rafah, Yousef said the security branches would soon begin joint night patrols. While they would not search houses for weapons, the security forces would confiscate guns displayed publicly, he said.

If militants do not cooperate, Yousef said, the security forces will respond with force.

Nafez Azzam, a top leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, welcomed Yousef’s comments and said his group would cooperate.

“If there are any differences, they can be solved through dialogue,” he said.

Focus on Palestinian economy
Also Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and his Cabinet met with outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who is helping coordinate Israel’s Gaza withdrawal. In his new role, Wolfensohn is working on behalf of the Mideast mediators — the U.S., U.N., Europe and Russia — and is also charged with helping revive the Palestinian economy.

Qureia presented Wolfensohn with two proposals, the first for a short-term plan to revive the economy, rebuild homes destroyed in Israeli-Palestinian violence and find jobs for the unemployed, Qureia said. The second, a long-term plan, would focus on reforms and rebuilding the Palestinian economy, he said.

Wolfensohn said he was impressed with the plans.

“I think we are off to a very good beginning,” he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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