Militant leader's kin among Mideast dead

By SAUD ABU RAMADAN and JOSHUA BRILLIANT  |  Aug. 20, 2002 at 2:29 PM
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At least three people, including the brother of a top Palestinian militant, were killed Tuesday in separate incidents of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mohamed Saadat, brother of Ahmed Saadat, the jailed chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was shot dead in his Ramallah home by a special Israeli unit, officers and eyewitnesses said. The troops then left the area, they said.

The Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said the incident occurred when soldiers went to arrest Mohammad Saadat who they said was "the principle assistant" to Ahmad Saadat.

According to the army's account, Saadat opened fire, wounded an Israeli officer and a soldier and Israelis then "returned fire as result of which the wanted man was killed."

Medical sources at Ramallah Hospital confirmed that Mohammed Saadat had been shot dead.

PFLP chief Ahmed Saadat has been under Palestinian detention since May 1 in the West Bank town of Jericho. His arrest in May was part of a deal that ended a 34-day Israeli siege imposed on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. Israel said Ahmed Saadat was behind last year's assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.

The PFLP leadership vowed to revenge Tuesday's killing.

The group "would ... retaliate as soon as possible," it said.

In other incidents, Palestinian sources said two Palestinians were killed in the Tulkarim clash but Israeli military sources said one of the two Palestinians hit there was wounded, not dead.

The clashes occurred hours after Israel turned over security control of Bethlehem to the Palestinians. The Israeli pullout followed an agreement Sunday between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators under which Israel pledged to ease a military clampdown in Bethlehem and Gaza in return for a reduction in terrorist attacks.

At least some of the renewed fighting was carried out by the radical Islamic Hamas movement that opposes any compromises with Israel, including Sunday's agreement. Hamas assumed responsibility for the soldier's death near the settlement of Gadid in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer visited the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Ben-Eliezer said he called the senior Palestinian officials whom he had met Sunday, told them what had happened and warned, "If you don't take care of this, we will!"

On Sunday, Israel promised to ease economic pressure on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip if the area calms down.

The attack on the Israeli position near Gadid was launched at 7:30 a.m. The Israeli soldier, hit in the head, was pronounced dead about half an hour later, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Palestinian Radio reported that heavy exchanges of fire were reported between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians near the Neveh Dekalim settlement west of the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian medical sources said two people were killed and one was wound Tuesday when Palestinians opened fire at Israeli troops as they entered the Tulkarim refugee camp. An Israeli military source told United Press International the soldiers killed one militant and found beside him a gun and a powerful bomb that he evidently planned to use. The second gunman was wounded, the military source said.

The army spokeswoman described Tulkarim as "a center of terror activity among the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad." The Islamic Jihad also opposes the latest Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Palestinians in the village of Al Yamun, near Jenin, said Israeli troops discovered a building with 25 pipe bombs, adding that the Israeli army detonated the bombs and arrested two Palestinians.

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(Joshua Brilliant reported from Tel Aviv, Israel and Saud Abu Ramadan from Gaza.)

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