Israeli Army Says Palestinian Fire Lessens after Arafat Order

Published November 19th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The Israeli military said Sunday a Palestinian policeman who killed an Israeli soldier at the weekend was likely working alone, and that police in the territories were cracking down on gunmen after an order by their leader Yasser Arafat. 

"According to initial information from the investigation, the shooting was an individual initiative, from what Palestinian officials have told us," General Yom Tov Samia, a regional commander in the southern Gaza Strip, where the deadly shoot-out took place on Saturday, told Israeli radio. 

Palestinian officials announced an unprecedented probe into the incident. 

The shooting came a day after Arafat said he had ordered a halt to fire at Israeli targets from Palestinian-controlled areas. It was his first public statement repudiating violence since the launching of an Infitada or uprising seven weeks ago. 

Before dawn on Saturday, 28-year-old Palestinian policeman Daha Salama Said entered the outpost at the Kefar Darom Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip and unleashed fire on soldiers, killing 21-year-old Baruch Plum from Tel Aviv and wounding two others, one critically, before Israeli soldiers shot him dead.  

After the shoot-out, Samia said Israel reserved the right to retaliate, but Palestinian officials announced an immediate investigation and urged the army not to seek revenge. 

On Sunday, Samia toned down his language and commended Palestinian police for lowering the incidence of fire from their territories. 

"Palestinian police are starting to act with apparent success against the gunmen. For the first time in a long while there were only five cases of shootings overnight in the Gaza Strip, compared with 15 to 20 every night for the last few weeks," Samia said over the radio, in response to a question whether Arafat's appeal was kicking in. 

Another Israeli commander in the West Bank noted a similar drop in fire on the West Bank. 

"For the first time since the beginning of this conflict, Palestinian police are starting to react. But we don't know whether or not the police are arresting the gunman or are content to isolate them," said Colonel Noam Tibon, commander in the West Bank town of Hebron, where Jewish settlers live in enclaves among the Palestinian population. 

"A new tendency is arising, but we must wait to see if it lasts on the ground," Tibon said -- JERUSALEM, Nov 19 (AFP) 



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