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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Powell Sees Progress, Israel Tightens Grip

TULKARM, West Bank -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reported progress in his peace mission Tuesday as Israel stepped up military pressure in the West Bank after promising limited pullbacks in the next few days.

Troops raided the town of Tulkarm overnight on a hunt for Palestinian militants just hours after Israeli forces in Ramallah seized Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi, considered to be one of President Yasser Arafat's potential successors.

Powell was expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon again later Tuesday and Arafat on Wednesday.

"We are making progress, and I look forward to furthering that progress over the next 24 hours, but I don't want to get into specifics as to what I'll be able to achieve and not able to achieve," Powell told reporters in Jerusalem.

U.S. officials say they are working with both sides on statements that would commit them to work for peace and not use violence, but might not be billed as cease-fire declarations.

The Palestinians have been telling Powell that no cease-fire can hold while Israeli troops, now in the 19th day of their West Bank onslaught, continue occupying West Bank cities.

Monday's capture of Barghouthi, 42, a senior leader of Arafat's Fatah faction, has further enraged Palestinians but delighted Israelis who accuse him of leading Fatah-linked militants behind shootings and suicide bombings.

He denies this, but says Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sharon vowed to put Barghouthi on trial, something Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said would violate interim peace accords signed by Israel and the Palestinians.

"He [Barghouthi] has to stay in prison till the end of his life," Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau told Israel Radio.

In Tulkarm, the army said it had detained four members of the militant Islamic group Hamas in the sweep. Palestinian security officials said troops and tanks still ringed Qalqilya, which, like Tulkarm, is adjacent to Israel.

Palestinian witnesses said nine people were detained in Tulkarm, and hospital officials said nine had been wounded. Soldiers withdrew several hours after launching the incursion.

A UN official said troops wounded four people in the Askar refugee camp and the neighboring suburb of Musaken, on the eastern edge of Nablus, the West Bank's largest city.

The troops searched houses, positioned tanks in two schools and detained five people, the official said.

Sharon pledged earlier to pull Israeli forces out from the battered West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin within a week.

"We're on the way out," he told CNN on Monday, 11 days after U.S. President George W. Bush demanded an immediate Israeli withdrawal.

But Sharon said troops would stay in Bethlehem until a standoff with gunmen holed up in the Church of Nativity was resolved. They would also keep Arafat's headquarters under siege until four wanted men said to be inside were handed over.