Shots were fired at a banquet hall in the Israeli coastal town of Ashdod, southern Tel Aviv, in an apparent shooting attack Sunday night. A 12-year old boy suffered moderate-to-serious injuries in the attack.
Israel Radio reported that police arrested a Hebron resident suspected of shooting at the banquet hall. Police are searching the area for other gunmen.
Earlier, an Israeli settler was seriously wounded Sunday evening when Palestinians fired at him near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israel Radio reported.
An Israeli soldier died Sunday afternoon from wounds suffered in a morning shooting attack at the Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim. A Palestinian gunman disguised as a worker opened fire, fatally wounding the soldier.
After shooting the soldier, the attacker proceeded to stab and wound a Netzarim security officer, before he was shot dead by Israeli troops stationed at the settlement.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group affiliated with Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for this attack and identified the assailant as Mohammed Katawi, 21, from a refugee camp near Gaza City.
Also on Sunday, Israeli warplanes fired two missiles at Palestinian security installations in Gaza Strip's Jabalya refugee camp.
In a speech delivered during an Israeli military engineering corps ceremony at Sunday evening, Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon said that he was in favor of lifting a siege that has confined Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Ramallah since December.
While it was difficult to justify such a decision right now following two separate attacks Saturday night that killed 13 Israelis, Sharon said, "at the end of the day I believe the conditions will exist in which we can do this."
The prime minister added Arafat had fulfilled his demand to detain those responsible for the assassination of Tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi last October.
"I said once they were arrested I would let him leave," Sharon said "Once you achieve your demands you must fulfill your commitments."
Meanwhile, the ultra right wing faction The National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu has unanimously decided to resign from the national unity government following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to hold negotations with the Palestinians "under fire".
The leaders of this hard-line faction announced at the conclusion of a meeting Sunday that it was no longer willing to be partner "to the ongoing defeatism."
A few hours before Sharon’s comments, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said the time has come for Sharon to seriously consider letting Arafat out of Ramallah.
"I think that Prime Minister Sharon should give this serious consideration" in the coming weeks, Powell said.
"I hope that as we move forward over the next week or two before the (Arab) summit, the prime minister could take a look at the situation and make a judgment as to whether it serves his interest or serves the interest of getting this crisis behind us to let Mr. Arafat attend this summit," Powell said.
Israelis and Palestinians are beginning a stage that will lead to an end of the violence, Powell said. He added that Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni, reportedly scheduled to arrive on Thursday, would come even if the violence continues.
"We have a vision, we have a plan to solve this crisis but it begins with ending the violence," Powell told CBS' "Face the Nation" of the revived effort by Zinni.
"He is going to stay in the region and fight his way through this," Powell declared. "We're not going to allow acts of violence to stop General Zinni from doing his work." (Albawaba.com)
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