A 16-year-old Palestinian youth was shot dead Thursday afternoon by Israeli troops occupying the West Bank city of Jenin after he tried to climb on to a tank in a column that had been pelted with petrol bombs, witnesses and medics said.
In the Gaza Strip border with Egypt, a second Palestinian was shot dead by soldiers after he opened fire on the troops, the army said.
Earlier, Israeli soldiers left the West Bank city of Qalqilya Thursday morning after conducting searches throughout the night, Israel Radio reported. Israeli forces detained 17 Palestinians during the sweep. The arrested Palestinians include members of Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Soldiers also arrested suspects in the villages of Salfit and Katana. In another incident, Israeli undercover units entered the town of Beit Jala, at dawn and detained Fawaz Amro, a wanted member of Hamas.
An Israel army spokesman confirmed the arrest of "a wanted Hamas terrorist" in that southern West Bank town.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns met a Palestinian delegation on Thursday to go over the so-called U.S. "road map" for a solution to the Mideast conflict.
Burns told the Palestinian officials the Palestinians must take decisive action against militants and get serious about internal reform if they want to embark on the road to statehood, AP reported.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat noted that the plan only refers to parliamentary and not to presidential elections, an apparent attempt to circumvent Yasser Arafat. "This is interference in our internal affairs which is not acceptable," Erekat told reporters after a meeting with the envoy in the West Bank town of Jericho.
After the meeting with the Palestinian officials, Burns acknowledged the "very real suffering and humiliation the Palestinians experience under occupation every day." However, Burns said the Palestinians won't be able to end occupation unless they end "terror."
"It is only through decisive action to end terror and violence, and decisive action to reform in preparation for Palestinian statehood, that we are going to be able to move ahead on a practical pathway to end occupation and this terrible conflict," Burns said.
Burns also held separate talks with Hani al-Hassan, expected to be named by Arafat in the coming days as interior minister. In the job, al-Hassan will be asked to oversee the restructuring of the Palestinian security services.
Burns met also with Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer who said the new plan, referred to as a road map, did not address all of Israel's security concerns.
"The defense minister emphasized the need to strengthen the security element in the road map because without security there can be no progress," said a statement by Ben-Eliezer. "Israel reserves the right to self defense and will not accept any constraints by this or any other road map."
Burns met Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon later Thursday.
Sharon was concerned the roadmap might not address Israel's security needs. Palestinian officials accuse Sharon of the same thing, citing the army clampdown, which has crippled Palestinian institutions, and the consolidation of Jewish settlements.
Burns said after meeting Israel's foreign minister on Wednesday that Washington was concerned about the misery of Palestinian civilians in the army's grip. Washington has urged Israel to relieve such pressure. (Albawaba.com)
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