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Israel arrests West Bank 'terror operatives'

Israeli forces have arrested 55 'terror operatives' in overnight raids in the West Bank. A statement said the arrests were in response to recent violent activity there.

The raids were conducted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank, the IDF said in an online statement Thursday. Members of the Israel Securities Authority, Israel Police and the Israel Border Police were involved in the raid.

The IDF said the detained suspects were "affiliated with various terror groups," adding that "senior level operatives" were among those arrested.

The arrests came "in light of recent terrorist activity" in the two areas, the IDF said, and that the raid was an attempt to restore calm in the area.

Shifting loyalties

Protests and clashes had taken place over the past week in response to Israel's bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a long-time rival to West Bank leader Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, Abbas' Fatah party had expressed its solidarity with Hamas in the conflict with Israel.

A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt went into effect on Wednesday and so far appears to be holding. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised the agreement between the two sides.

"If this cease-fire holds, it will be a big relief for all of us - but especially the people in Israel and Gaza," Westerwelle said in a statement on Wednesday.

The cease-fire was reached despite a bomb planted on a bus in Tel Aviv that exploded and caused injuries to passengers Wednesday morning.

According to the agreement, Israel would halt all military activity against the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants would halt rocket attacks into Israel. After 24 hours of quiet, Gaza's border crossings with Israel would open to allow the freer movement of goods and people.

mz/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)