April 10, 2011 - 12:00am

The Israeli army announced on Sunday the Awarta village in the West Bank as a closed military area and arrested 23 Palestinians, including three women.

Qais Awwad, head of the village's council, said the Israeli army was conducting an operation in the village since early morning after closing all its entrances.

The army forces arrested 20 youths and three women from the village after an investigation, Awwad said, adding that the forces stormed dozens of houses in the village and destroyed the furniture in four houses.

Awarta, which is located in the east of Nablus city, has witnessed Israeli raids and arrests for weeks since the killing of five Jews in the nearby Itamar settlement last month. The Israeli forces suspect that the assailants came from Awarta.

The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad canceled his visit to the village Sunday due to the military operation there, Awwad said.

Fayyad told Awwad on phone that he was continuing intensive calls on the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop the operation.

The Palestinian government's spokesman Ghassan Khateeb said it was necessary to put an end to the "Israeli violations of human rights" in Awarta.


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