Hamas Claims Responsibility for Killing Jewish Settler as Violence Claims more Lives
The military wing of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, Ezziddine el-Qassam, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the death of a Jewish settler in the West Bank. Meanwhile, a Palestinian police officer was killed by shells fired from an Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip.
"The Ezzedin el-Qassam Brigades claim the death of the Zionist settler near the Ofra settlement, in the first operation in a series of reprisals for the deaths of our heroes in Ramallah and Gaza," a member of the group shouted through a loudspeaker during the funeral of two members of Hamas killed Monday when their car exploded in a garage in Gaza City, destroying two buildings.
Assaf Hershkowitz died after losing control of his car, which was hit by several bullets near the Ofra Jewish settlement in Ramallah.
His father was killed three months ago in a similar attack, said Israel media reports.
Haaretz newspaper reported that another Israeli was lightly wounded when Palestinian gunmen fired on his car near the settlement of Itamar in Nablus.
The killing of the settler was also claimed by the radical Brigades of the Martyrs of al-Aqsa in a statement sent to AFP in Beirut.
A Palestinian from the nearby Aksa refugee camp was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attack, Israel Radio reported.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian police officer was killed Tuesday by shells fired from an Israeli tank near the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, a Palestinian hospital official said, cited by AFP.
The victim, Mohamed Abu Jabar, was a 57-year-old captain. Four other people were hurt in the attack, including a woman who was seriously wounded.
Local officials said the tank fired on Palestinians who were trying to stop bulldozers from clearing an area of land near the frontier, said AFP.
TWO PALESTINIANS KILLED, FOUR INJURED BY EXPLOSION IN GAZA CITY MONDAY
Two Hamas members were killed and four others wounded when a car bomb destroyed two Gaza City houses, a Palestinian hospital source told AFP.
Nineteen-year-old Hamdi Madhoun's body was severely mutilated in the blast and was later taken to the Shifa Hospital.
According to the agency, which quoted a Palestinian police source, another body was later found in the ruins of the destroyed house.
The hospital also admitted two seriously injured Hamas sympathizers, Mohammed Abu Khaled and Abdel Karim Madhoun, in addition to Khaled's wife and one of their children, who were lightly injured, according to sources quoted by the agency.
The car bomb explosion totally razed the home of Khaled, located about 200 meters (yards) from the Mediterranean Sea beach, witnesses said.
A neighboring house was also destroyed in the blast.
Debris from the car was strewn about the explosion site.
Earlier reports theorized that a bomb exploded while being prepared by the activist.
Israel Army Radio said that the activists were preparing a car bomb, confirming in its initial report that two men were killed in the blast that occurred in Omar Mukhtar Street, the main artery of Gaza.
The Palestine Information Center, a website backing Hamas, charged that the incident was "a sophisticated assassination attack," hinting that the bomb was activated by one of the helicopters hovering in the area since morning.
Within the same context, Israel Radio reported that one of the Palestinians killed in the bomb blast was suspected of involvement in the murder of Ofir Nahum, 15, who allegedly was tricked into coming to Ramallah by a Palestinian woman and then murdered in February.
The Israel Army Radio also reported that a Jewish settler was stabbed by a Palestinian near Ganim settlement in Jenin, north of the West Bank. Her condition was still unclear as she was rushed to the Afula Hospital.
Earlier, a Palestinian man was killed in under mysterious circumstances in the West Bank, while another was killed in a bomb explosion near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.
Haaretz newspaper reported that a Palestinian man was killed and another one injured when an explosive charge blew up near the southern Gaza Strip Jewish settlement of Rafah Yam.
The charge, which was said to have been a small one, had been placed under a private Israeli pickup truck carrying Palestinian farm laborers, Israeli public radio reported, cited by the paper.
The blast occurred beneath the truck outside of Rafah Yam, which is located in the Gush Katif settlement block.
In addition to the truck's Israeli owner and a number of Palestinians, the owner's wife and daughter were also aboard the vehicle, according to AFP.
The wife and daughter were said to be in a state of shock, said the agency.
Meanwhile, reports differed on the killing of another Palestinian. Adnan Oudeh, 32, was said to have been killed by Israeli troops because he was on their wanted list, according to Haaretz.
The paper said Oudeh was killed after fleeing his home in Hableh, near Qalqilya, during a raid by Israeli coast guards.
AFP said that he was a former collaborator with Israeli troops, but did not say whether Palestinians were behind the killing as is often the case in such deaths.
Haaretz said that another Palestinian was arrested during the raid.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israeli security forces arrested an officer and a policeman from the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Service overnight, said The Jerusalem Post newspaper.
Lieutenant Abdel Bassat Albayat and Ramzi Alian were taken from the Jelazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah, said the paper, adding that the two were reportedly charged with taking part in "terror acts carried out by the PA's Force 17 against Israelis" and had been on security forces' wanted lists for some time.
PALESTINIANS MARCH TO PROTEST ARAFAT ORDER FOR ARMED GROUPS TO DISBAND
Several hundred Palestinians, some of them firing assault rifles into the air, marched in protest in Rafah, Gaza on Monday against an order by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that unofficial armed groups disband, according to AFP.
The demonstrators included members of the committees of popular resistance, which belong to Arafat's Fateh movement. Arafat ordered the committees to disband over the weekend.
There were also members of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Some of the 400 to 500 demonstrators were masked, while others wore hoods, with the procession headed up by men carrying an 81 millimeter mortar in a clear reference to the recent mortar attacks against Gaza Strip Jewish settlements.
Many demontrators shouted slogans against security cooperation and peace negotiations with Israel.
Among the targets of the slogans were Mohammed Dahlan, chief of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Demonstrators chanted: "The blood of the martyrs is not for sale" and "No to traitors and treason, yes to the armed struggle!"
The angry crowd was also protesting against the arrest Saturday by Palestinian police of one of the main leaders of the radical Hamas movement, Abdel Aziz Rantissi.
"Rantissi habibi, we are going to blow up Tel Aviv," some protestors chanted.
The march went off without becoming violent.
The decree issued Saturday by the Palestinian Authority called for the popular committees -- better known as Tanzim -- to be reintegrated into the Palestinian security forces, and threatened punishment to comittee members who resisted.
PERES BLAMES CEASEFIRE MISUNDERSTANDING ON TRANSLATION ERROR
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Monday blamed a translation error for a report that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a ceasefire, but he said they had reached "an understanding," said reports.
"To have an agreement, you have to sit with a piece of paper and write it down, in small print," he told a news conference.
"This did not yet happen, but as a general concept, we reached an understanding," he said.
Peres had just held private talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and said he had briefed Annan on a visit he made to Egypt, where he conferred with President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday.
After their meeting, Mubarak had told reporters that "the Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to a ceasefire, on both sides" and that peace negotiations were due to resume four weeks after it took effect.
While the Palestinians have reportedly said they want a four-week ceasefire before negotiations are resumed, Israel is demanding a longer period.
Peres will present this view to US Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush in meetings in the next two days, said Haaretz newspaper.
"We have a group of security people meeting constantly," Peres told reporters, referring to Israeli-Palestinian contacts.
In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday night, Peres said negotiations could not resume without a ceasefire.
"I think the Palestinians have begun to understand ... that to return to the negotiating table there must be a real ceasefire," he said, cited by the paper.
"Now, we're waiting to see if the Palestinian negotiators are willing to do so." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's agreement to accept, as a basis for discussion, the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire and renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has somewhat lightened the international pressure on Israel.
This, along with the announcement of a further easing of restrictions on Palestinians in the territories, and Peres' trips to Egypt, Jordan and the US, has placed the diplomatic initiative in Israel's court.
But earlier in the day, Mubarak said that the Israelis "begged" him to make an announcement of a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire that they later denied, said AFP.
"They begged me to make the statement I made yesterday, on a ceasefire and a resumption of negotiations on the final status in a period of four weeks," Mubarak said during a speech to parliament for the May Day holiday.
"I was then surprised to hear Israeli radio ask: 'Where did President Mubarak get these remarks?'" the president said - Albawaba.com
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