Undercover troops captured Fatah gunman Adnan Abiyat and another Fatah man, Rateb Nebhan, yesterday along with a machine gun, six rifles and much ammunition in the laundry room of Bethlehem's Holy Family Hospital.

According to the Shin Bet, Abiyat is suspected of involvement in numerous attempts to dispatch a suicide bomber to Jerusalem, and has been linked to shooting attacks in which eight Israelis - five security officers and three civilians - were killed, going back to the early days of the intifada.

In other West Bank operations, eight other suspects were arrested, in the areas of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. There were also shooting incidents, without Israeli casualties, in Qalqilyah and in Gaza's Gush Katif and Rafah areas.

Israel Defense Forces troops raided Askar refugee camp in Nablus, rounding up hundreds of its male residents and detaining them in a high school courtyard, witnesses said. Most of the men were released later in the day. Dozens of troops, backed by armor, entered the camp early in the morning, laid down a curfew, and sealed all entrances to the camp, said witnesses. The army said soldiers were questioning several hundred Palestinians as part of an ongoing search for gunmen.

In Ramallah, soldiers confiscated weapons belonging to Jamil Tarifi, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of security coordination with the army and other Israeli authorities, during a routine inspection. The soldiers stopped Tarifi and an accompanying passenger as they drove through a Ramallah neighborhood. Soldiers discovered three rifles and two pistols in the passenger's possession. The soldiers seized the weapons and permitted the Palestinians to continue on their way.

Since assuming his post, Trifi oversees coordination of Palestinian civil matters with Israel's Civil Administration in the territories. Contrary to other instances of Palestinians caught with weapons, Trifi was released because he is not involved in terrorism, according to IDF sources.

In Nablus, a new IDF raid came just a day after troops withdrew after more than a week of searches and arrests in the city's center. The army frequently operates in Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, saying it is a center of militant activity.

The Judea Military Court yesterday sentenced Hamas man Ali Asafra to four life sentences for his role in the killing of a couple and a reservist and the wounding of five soldiers at the settlement of Carmei Zion, north of Hebron, in June 2002.