Six Killed in Shootout in Israel; Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement has claimed responsibility for the killing of four people in the northern Israeli town of Hadera. At least 31 were wounded and the two attackers were soon after killed in a shootout with Israeli police, according to reports.
In a statement faxed to Albawaba.com, the group said that two members of its military wing, the Jerusalem Brigades, carried out the operation.
They belonged to a special unit named after a Palestinian toddler killed by the Israelis, Riham Al Ward.
The statement said the attack also came on the anniversary of the assassination of the movement’s founder, Fathi Shiqaqi, by the Israeli Mossad in Malta in 1995.
The group named the two fighters as Youssef Sweitat, 22, from Jenin refugee camp, and Tayseer Shehadeh Jabali, 23, from Jenin city in the north West Bank.
Israeli troops were reported to be massing outside Jenin on Monday.
The attackers arrived in a Mitsubishi and opened fire with machineguns on a crowd in the central bus station, before policemen on the scene shot them dead, Israel Radio said.
Two of the wounded were in a critical condition, said reports.
Over 700 Palestinians and more than 170 Israelis have been killed in the 13-month Palestinian uprising against 34 years of Israeli military occupation, according to AFP
Earlier, the military wing of the Fateh movement, Al Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli soldier in revenge for Saturday's killing of a Fateh activist in the nearby West Bank town of Tulkarem,
an anonymous caller told AP.
The soldier was shot dead in a village near the besieged city of Tulkarem in the West Bank, said reports.
He was killed near Baqa Al Gharbiyya, an Arab-Israeli village near the Green Line, which separates Israel from the Occupied Territories.
The incidents jeopardized a possible Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas later in the day.
Following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision Saturday to delay his troops' withdrawal from Bethlehem and Beit Jala in the West Bank, security sources said Sunday that the army could pull out of the re-occupied areas in the course of the day if there was no shooting, Israel Radio reported, cited by Haaretz.
Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer was quoted by Army Radio as saying that the army would leave Bethlehem and Beit Jala later Sunday if the Palestinians did not resume firing in the area.
Sharon decided Saturday to freeze "until further notice" the planned withdrawal, blaming the Palestinians for failing to end shooting incidents against Israeli targets, said the Tel Aviv-based daily.
"The Palestinians promised to bring the situation under control and safeguard the peace, and they are not meeting their commitments. The shooting is continuing in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Gilo," a government spokesman said.
The Palestinians are not denying that shooting continues in the area of Bethlehem and Beit Jala, but they accuse Israel of provoking Palestinian reactions.
The official Palestinian news agency (WAFA) correspondent, who witnessed the conflict, told Albawaba.com that the Israeli army took over an office building on the main street of Bethlehem, overlooking the entrance to the town of Beit Jala, on Saturday. Civilian hostages were taken as human shields, he said, and reports confirmed his account.
Israeli soldiers wounded four Palestinians. Exchanges of fire continued until early evening, said AFP.
In addition, Israel shelled Khan Younes later in the night, with Palestinian sources saying no shooting was initiated by their side, according to TV reports.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said Saturday the suspension of the pullout showed that Israel was not serious about making peace with the Palestinians.
"It was supposed to take place tonight, but as you see it has not been implemented," Arafat said after meeting at his Gaza headquarters with European parliamentarians. "It's a part of their policy not to achieve real peace."
AFP reported that the planned meeting of the Israeli-Palestinian security committee was in doubt Sunday after Israel postponed its scheduled withdrawal.
An AFP photographer earlier said tanks had started to move out of Bethlehem and neighboring village Beit Jala, one of six autonomous sectors the Israeli military invaded after Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated on October 17.
Other witnesses saw Israeli soldiers, at the same time, taking down their tents, although other troops remained in place. Israeli officials said the movements signified that the army was effectively preparing to leave the area when they received the order.
Israel pledged to leave Bethlehem and Beit Jala on Friday as the first step toward ending their bloody siege of the West Bank, and held a joint security meeting Saturday morning to plan it out before the move was finally aborted.
According to Palestinian officials, their security services are struggling to impose a ceasefire on the various armed groups, including Arafat's Fateh, which was outraged by the assassination of three local leaders of the movement in an Israeli attack on October 18.
The delay of the withdrawal seemed to jeopardize the wider process of withdrawing Israeli troops and tanks from the five other re-occupied West Bank towns, said the agency -Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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