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Roundup: Israel ends Nablus raid, Abbas sacks security chief

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Ramallah (dpa) Israeli soldiers withdrew from Nablus Friday, ending a two-day raid in the northern West Bank city during which they arrested nine "wanted" militants and confiscated weapons, explosives and ammunition in house-to-house searches, the military said.

The soldiers earlier Friday shot dead an unarmed, 25-year-old taxi driver who failed to heed orders to stop in the northern West Bank city, hospital officials said.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the taxi driver was unarmed, but said he was transporting two armed militants and that the soldiers were directing their fire at them. He said the soldiers shot one of the armed men when he got out the taxi, and not the driver, who he said sped away with the second militant.

Four Israeli soldiers had been injured, two of them seriously, in clashes with local militants Thursday.

Several of them arrestees were members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

New Palestinian Information Minister Riad Malki, who also serves as spokesman for the emergency government set up by Abbas in the West Bank, condemned the raid as well as a military incursion in Gaza earlier this week which targeted rocket launchers and in which 12 Palestinians were killed.

In a statement late Thursday, he accused Israel of undermining his government's efforts to impose security, law and order in the West Bank after Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Referring to the Fatah militants, he said the Nablus raid targeted "groups who expressed willingness to cooperate with the government to end lawlessness."

Abbas issued a presidential decree this week, ordering all Palestinian armed groups to hand in their weapons. Al-Aqsa commanders, however, have in fact said they did not regard the decree as applying to them and vowed to hold on to their arms.

The Israeli military said the raid was aimed at foiling ongoing attempts by al-Aqsa and Islamic Jihad militants to launch suicide bombings from the city inside Israel, pointing out that 117 would-be suicide bombers were arrested and nine bomb belts tracked down in Nablus during similar raids in 2006.

Abbas meanwhile sacked a top Fatah commander in the National Security Force, Hussein Abu Adreh, blaming him for Fatah's "surrendering to the outlawed militias" of Hamas in Gaza now two weeks ago.

He has already fired Internal Security chief Rashid Abu Shebaq, as well as the heads in Gaza of his Presidential Guard and the Force 17 security unit. dpa mak ok pmc

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