Israeli forces continue raid on West Bank city of Nablus

Dozens of Israeli army vehicles are involved in an operation in the West Bank, aimed at finding suspected militants and explosives. This comes as the Israeli cabinet conducts its weekly meeting in Jerusalem to discuss intelligence assessments.

The operation in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, was launched on Saturday. According to witnesses, several suspected militants have been arrested, but an Israeli military spokesman denies any knowledge of this. Witnesses also say some 50,000 people have been placed under curfew in the city centre, while the main entrance into the city has been closed.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert's cabinet discusses intelligence assessments. “We will listen to the annual intelligence brief by all bodies of intelligence in the state of Israel as 2007 starts. I want to emphasise that this is the first time, according to my knowledge, that the intelligence assessments is presented to the government in its full assembly,” stressed Israeli Prime Minister.

There have been reports Israel is planning to attack Iran. But Israeli officials denied reports in a British newspaper. Israel's talking to the U.S. about the possibility of using Iraqi airspace to attack Iranian nuclear sites. However, analysts say if Israel were to attack Iran, it would go against military doctrine to seek permission due to the secretive nature of the operation. Neither Israel nor the U.S. have ruled out the possibility of taking military action against Iran.

The cabinet is also due to discuss the fate of captured Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. He was captured last June. French President Jacques Chirac called for the soldier's release during talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. Abbas gave assurances that he will be asking for this to happen before any new Palestinian coalition government is formed.

Meantime, according to UN officials, the situation with food supplies in the Palestinian territories is a matter of serious concern due to the constantly worsening economic situation in the region. The warnings come from the United Nations World Food Programme that has reviewed food security and the social and economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The report says in 2006 over half of the region's population had to reduce their living standards and cannot afford to buy enough food now. The document also says the food level in the Palestinian territories is mostly being maintained through humanitarian aid from outside but that the risk of serious food shortages is still high.

Yet, the Israeli police claim to have arrested a number of people on suspicion of doing business with militant groups. It is believed they have been helping fund Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They were said to have been operating through a company on the Gaza Strip. The accused are staff at two companies in Tel Aviv – Shintrako Ltd and Mayan Customs Brokers and International Forwarding. But a representative from the Mayan company is denying that any of its employees have been arrested saying they were only questioned. It appears documents have been taken away by police for examination.