Hawkish Israeli Leader Dies of Gunshot Wounds
Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, who was shot early Wednesday by Palestinian gunmen, died later of head and neck wounds in a hospital in Jerusalem, according to Monte Carlo radio's correspondent. Reports confirmed his death.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was to convene senior security and cabinet officials at 10:00am(0800 GMT) to discuss the shooting and its possible consequences, said Haaretz.
The attackers used a gun with a silencer in the assassination near his room in Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel, reports said.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack, citing Israel's assassination of the organization's leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, earlier this year, said Haaretz.
Top officials at the front confirmed the statement, received by AFP and Al Jazeera satellite channel.
AFP said that all Israeli ministers were ordered Wednesday to stay at home until further notice after the minister was shot, citing Israeli television.
Zeevi, leader of the far-right National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc, announced Monday that he and party colleague Avigdor Lieberman were resigning from the government in protest over cabinet decisions they viewed as too soft on the Palestinian Authority. The resignations were to have taken effect later on Wednesday.
Zeevi's wife said Wednesday that she found him "lying, without a pulse" on the floor of the hotel hallway in front of their room.
The gunmen, whose identity was not known, apparently escaped. The hotel is located adjacent to occupied Arab east Jerusalem and to Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.
ISRAEL BLAMES PA
Israel has condemned the assassination of Zeevi as a "murderous" attack and accused the Palestinian Authority of doing "nothing at all to stop terrorism," said the Tel-Aviv based Haaretz newspaper.
Blaming the attack on "Palestinian terrorists," government spokesman Avi Pazner told Reuters: "We can see that the Palestinian Authority headed by Yasser Arafat has done nothing at all to stop terrorism or to arrest terrorists." Cabinet minister Avigdor Lieberman, a member of Zeevi's party, who joined him in withdrawing from the coalition Monday, said that the incident demanded a re-evaluation of the "enemy who is standing against us."
Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit (Likud) said, "I have not agreed with his opinions, and do not agree with his opinions, but he has fought all his life for the security of Israel."
There was no immediate official response to the killing by Palestinian Authority figures.
Hatem Abdel Khader, an east Jerusalem lawmaker, said that Zeevi "paid today for his extremist views regarding Arabs."
Zeevi advocated the "voluntary" deportation of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a senior official of the militant Islamic Hamas, said in that "Israel should know that as long as the occupation continues, the struggle will continue." - Albawaba.com
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