Hebron siege continues, G8 quiet on Arafat


The Israeli army maintained its hold over the West Bank as the world’s richest leaders urged Palestinian leader Mr Yasser Arafat to make reforms as a prerequisite for a Palestinian state.

Buoyed by the tougher US line against the Palestinians, Israeli forces kept up their siege of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Hebron, the seventh West Bank city reoccupied by Israeli forces after a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings.

Defence Minister Binyamin Mr Ben-Eliezer told army radio that almost 20 of the Palestinians had emerged to surrender since the siege began on Wednesday and had shown the army where "explosives factories" were located.

In a communique issued after their summit in Canada yesterday, the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations said Palestinians must adopt democracy. But they did not echo US President Mr George W. Bush's call this week for Mr Arafat to be replaced as Palestinian leader.

But Canadian Prime Minister Mr Jean Chretien said while some leaders disagreed with elements of the plan, "collectively we were all happy that he has taken this initiative".

Israelis arrested 10 Palestinian men today after storming a village outside the West Bank town of Nablus with tank and helicopter gunship backup, witnesses said.

The head of a prisoners' rights association linked to the Palestinian Authority, Mr Raed Amer, was among those siezed in Azmout, just east of Nablus, witnesses said.

Soldiers entered the village early this morning spilling out of around 20 jeeps while tanks surrounded the community and a helicopter gunship provided air cover, firing in the vicinity, they said.