Soldier,Fatah militant killed in West Bank

By JOSHUA BRILLIANT, United Press International  |  Jan. 14, 2002 at 7:48 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- An Israeli soldier was killed and his officer was injured Monday hours after a Palestinian militant accused of killing at least nine Israelis died in a bomb explosion.

Palestinian security sources said the explosion was another in a series of targeted killings by Israelis.

The outburst of violence seemed to end a lull in which there were -- at the most -- three attacks a day in the West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Sergeant Elad Abu-Gany, 19, was killed and his officer sustained injuries west of Nablus when they left their armored personnel carrier to talk to two Palestinian suspects.

Palestinians lying in ambush fired at them, the spokesman added.

In other incidents Monday afternoon and evening, Palestinians fired at an army roadblock at Silet e-Daher north west of Nablus, at an Israeli car near Ramallah, at army posts near Tul Karem and Bethlehem, and at a force at Tel a-Ras overlooking Nablus.

No injuries were reported but the car was damaged, military sources and settlers said.

Israel Radio said the army was imposing a closure around Tul Karem, troops were alerted for more attacks, and the army heightened its alertness along the border area between the West Bank and Israel proper. The army spokesman said he would not discuss the troop deployment.

The flare-up follows the death of Raed Mahmoud Raaf Carmi, 27, chief of Fatah's armed wing in Tul Karem. Carmi was killed when a bomb exploded near his car while he was walking in the street, Palestinian sources said.

Palestinian Information Minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said the attack "represents a new escalation. It is an invitation by the Israeli government for a suicide attack. This is more playing with fire. This is a clear representation of the intentions of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon and his government."

Israel Radio quoted Fatah's al Aksa Brigades as assuming responsibility for the soldier's death and saying the cease-fire was cancelled because of the attack on Carmi.

Israeli officials did not assume responsibility for Carmi's death -- one of them terming it a "work accident," a euphemism for having a bomb go off prematurely and killing the person building the bomb or planting it -- but said it proves the Palestinians lied when they said he was in custody.

An Israeli security source, who spoke to United Press International on condition of anonymity, said Carmi was on the list of 33 people that the Israel Security Agency gave U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni. Zinni asked the Palestinians to arrest them.

The prime minister's media Adviser Raanan Gissin told UPI the Palestinian Authority had told U.S. and Israeli security authorities Carmi was in custody. The security source said the group has repeatedly told the European Union Carmi was in jail.

Gissin said: "When you handle explosives carelessly, accidents happen. Terror is a dangerous business."

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has said security forces foil about 85 percent of the planned Palestinian attacks. Sunday he told the Cabinet: "Where the Palestinian Authority does not foil, we foil. We intend to continue, and even increase our foiling activities."

There has been a drop recently in the number of targeted killings. However, Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar on Sunday maintained Israel has not given up on that tactic.

"If the state of Israel, the security establishment, will know that there is a ticking bomb (meaning a Palestinian involved in an imminent attack), or that there is about to be a mass attack, and it can be stopped only this way, it will be carried out," he said.

According to Israeli security accounts, Carmi was involved in the deaths of at least nine Israelis, including two restaurant owners who were pulled out of a restaurant in Tul Karem and shot. He was also involved in injuring 10 people.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel would stop razing Palestinian homes for security reasons. According to U.N. reports, Israel has razed 145 homes in Rafah since September 2000.

The Israeli government came under international and domestic pressure to halt the demolitions after last week when it destroyed as many as 60 homes in the area. Israel said the buildings were used for cover by Palestinians shooting at Israelis and were also used to hide tunnels through which weapons were smuggled from Egypt.

Peres, who briefed the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee where some members attacked the Rafah demolitions, said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and he wanted to stop the destruction.

"We drew the lessons (of the latest demolitions in Rafah) and concluded that this system causes more damage than benefits," he said.

A member of the committee, Tommy Lapid of the centrist Shinui Party said: "There was no justification for this act of vandalism, even if there were security considerations, because what comes out in the end is that we are a state that hurts children, families, and destroys civilians' homes. It was an act of stupidity."

The Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, said 475 people were in the houses at the time of Thursday's demolitions and that 614 people were left homeless. The International Red Cross said the demolitions violate the Geneva Convention that bans house demolitions as a collective punishment and permits them only in case of a military need.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality destroyed nine of 19 houses it intended to demolish in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh. The head of the Municipality's licensing Department, Micha Ben-Nun, said all 19 were built without a permit in areas slated for open spaces, and two in areas earmarked for schools.

(With additional reporting by Saud Abu Ramadan from Gaza.)

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