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The Israel Defense Forces announced yesterday that it recently removed 44 dirt barriers that were located near Palestinian villages in the West Bank. In recent years, the army established nearly 400 barriers and permanent roadblocks.

The move is one of a series of steps aimed at easing restrictions on the Palestinians that were announced following the December 24 meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The IDF had previously announced it was easing the security checks at 16 central West Bank checkpoints.

A reserve soldier was lightly injured yesterday when a burning tire exploded near the West Bank village of Qibya, northwest of Ramallah. Palestinians placed ammunition in the tire and then set it ablaze near the separation fence.

Two Qassam rockets struck Israel yesterday. One of the rockets struck the western Negev, while the other hit south of Ashkelon. Also yesterday, Palestinians fired on IDF troops near the security fence along the Gaza border, and in Jenin, an explosives device was set off near troops, who also came under fire. There were no injuries in all of the incidents.

Security forces arrested 19 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank yesterday. The Shin Bet security service , IDF, and police recently arrested nine Palestinians in the East Jerusalem area on suspicions of involvement in shooting attacks that injured three security guards. The guards were monitoring the construction of the security fence along the seam line.