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November 15, 2002

Israel Arrests 17 in Ramadan Raid

Now confined they can digest their food and think about the virgins they missed out on

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Israeli troops burst into a banquet hall after a brief gunbattle and arrested 17 activists from the militant Hamas group as they ate a meal after the daytime holy month fast, the military said Friday.

A dozen Israeli jeeps and armored vehicles surrounded the six-floor Badran banquet hall in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday night as Palestinians gathered to break the daily fast of the month-long Ramadan observance.

Gunmen out on the street briefly traded fire with troops before Israeli forces entered the large building, which often hosts several wedding parties at once and was decked out with festive colored lights.

The raid came as Egypt and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement pressed Hamas leaders to halt suicide attacks in Israel during Israel's election campaign, citing concerns that more violence would push Israelis to choose a hardline leader, a Palestinian official said Friday.