Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel nabbed a would-be suicide bomber early Friday a day after Israel intensified its counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told senior defense and intelligence officials that they should step up anti-terrorism operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported on Friday.
Mofaz said that every effort should be made to root out the terrorists wherever they might be.
Early Friday, Israeli troops arrested Sharef Abdel Sabbah Kondil, a member Tanzim, part of Palestinian Authority ChairmanYasser Arafat's Fatah faction and another unnamed militant in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus.
"[Kondil] was planning to carry out a suicide bombing," an army spokesman said. Kondil was carrying an audio cassette tape, on which he declared his intention to perpetrate a suicide attack, he added.
Earlier, the Israeli army and undercover agents arrested and killed a number of Palestinian terrorists it said had been engaged in "directing military actions and perpetrating attacks" against Israelis.
"This widespread operation carried out over the past 24 hours is a significant step in disrupting the ability of the various terrorist organizations to perpetrate large-scale deadly terrorist attacks," the prime minister's office said in a statement late Thursday.
Militant groups vowed to avenge the killings.
PA officials condemned the killings and charged that the military action was part of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's election campaign.
Among those killed were Hamsa Muhammad Abu Roub, 40, a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist in the Jenin area, accused of involvement in a number of shooting and bombing attacks and was said to have been planning another suicide attack.
Jamal Yehye, 31, was also killed in clashes with forces, which came to arrest him in Tulkarem. Yehye was accused of being responsible for a number of shooting attacks and two infiltrations of Jewish communities - one in the West Bank and one in Israel - in which eight Israelis were killed altogether.
In Ramallah, Israeli forces arrested Hamas militant Iman Amar Rashid, 36, who is suspected of being responsible for a number of deadly terror attacks in which more than 40 people were murdered, including the bombing of a cafeteria at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, in which several Americans were killed.
Also arrested were two Hamas leaders in Kalkilya who were responsible for a number of suicide attacks, including the suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv disco last year, in which 22 people were murdered and 86 injured, mostly teenagers.
Israeli troops also returned to the center of Bethlehem following a two-day respite for Christmas. Troops withdrew on Christmas Eve from the center of the city and lifted a month-long curfew in order to allow residents and pilgrims to celebrate the holiday.
But Israeli troops returned to the center of the city on Thursday. However, on Friday, an army spokesman said that the curfew there had been lifted again for the day.
An Israeli-Palestinian understanding, whereby Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem during the summer, was scuttled by a Palestinian suicide bomber from the area, who blew up a Jerusalem bus in November, killing 11. Israeli troops have maintained a presence in the city since then.
Arafat Not A Peacemaker
Former special U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross, meanwhile, said that he did not believe that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is not "up to the task" of leading his people to peace.
In an interview on CNN, Ross said that Arafat had been "defined by the cause" which he could not end because to do so meant "giving up his mythologies" and confronting history.
"What you needed in this particular case was someone like Nelson Mandela leading the Palestinians but you had Yasser Arafat and he simply was not up to the task," Ross said.