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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Palestinians Clash With Hamas, Optimism as Israelis Pull Back

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Israeli troops withdrew from parts of two Palestinian-ruled cities Thursday as Yasser Arafat pressed on with a crackdown on militants despite a clash between his police and Hamas supporters.

Seven people were wounded in a gun battle between Hamas militants and Palestinian security forces who tried to arrest Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, one of the Islamic movement's leaders in the Gaza Strip.

In what the Israeli army called a "tactical re-arrangement," its tanks moved back from areas of Nablus and Ramallah to positions just outside the cities, but remained about 300 meters from the Palestinian leader's headquarters in Ramallah.

Army blockades on other Palestinian towns remained in place.

The partial withdrawals, following a resumption of security talks between Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday, were a rare sign of progress after Arafat arrested some militants and closed their offices under international pressure.

"For the first time actually in months there is a small glimmer of hope," Terje Roed-Larsen, the United Nations Middle East envoy, told reporters in Jerusalem.

A Hamas leader in the West Bank said Wednesday the group was considering suspending suicide attacks, but Hamas leaders later said there had been no decision to call a halt.

"Let me say clearly and in order to dispel the confusion of yesterday: Hamas and the other forces have absolutely not called for an end to the operations," Hamas politburo head Khaled Meshal told a conference in Beirut.

Hamas challenged Arafat's call on Sunday for an end to suicide attacks. But about 5,000 people marched in the southern Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis in support of the truce appeal.