Shooting mars Mideast truce

The Associated Press
Friday June 15, 2001

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian shot and killed an Israeli army intelligence officer Thursday, marring the first day of a truce worked out by CIA director George Tenet. 

Israel’s military received orders to begin implementing the truce, but stopped pullbacks in places where violence persisted, including the road leading to the southern entry of Jerusalem, site of the shooting. 

Israeli tanks on carriers rumbled back from forward positions in Gaza. At the Netzarim junction, a flashpoint throughout more than eight months of fighting, Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers after a tank was withdrawn. 

Elsewhere, Israeli soldiers dismantled roadblocks, with forklifts hauling concrete barriers onto trucks. Israel allowed some Palestinians to leave through the Rafah crossing point to Egypt for the first time since June 2, after a Palestinian suicide bomber struck Tel Aviv, killing 21 people, most of them Israeli teen-agers. Also, Israel allowed the reopening of the Allenby Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan. 

Israeli and Palestinian security commanders met in the Gaza Strip to coordinate implementation of the truce. 

However, incidents of violence on both sides threatened the cease-fire. 

Lt. Col. Yehuda Edri, 45, a plainclothes army intelligence officer, was killed in a shooting attack on a main West Bank road. Israeli military sources said he apparently had been meeting with a Palestinian informant. 

After killing Edri and wounding one of his guards, the Palestinian was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier, the military said. 

The Palestinian was identified as Hassan Abu Shaireh, 30, from the Azza refugee camp in Bethlehem. Activists said he wanted to avenge the November killing of Hussein Abayat of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah organization, who was killed by Israeli helicopter rocket fire. 

At the refugee camp, Abu Shaireh’s relatives opened their house to mourners. 

“Hassan sacrificed himself for Palestine,” his 51-year-old sister, Fatimah Abu Shaireh, said, crying. “He will not be the last martyr. ... All of us are ready to sacrifice until we achieve all our rights.” 

A leaflet signed by the Hussein Abayat Brigade claimed responsibility for the shooting. A man, his face covered by a checked kaffiyeh headdress and identified as a member of the Fatah military wing, told Abu Dhabi television that his group took “full responsibility for this act of heroism.” 

He also said the cease-fire applies only to areas under Palestinian control. The road where the shooting took place is under Israeli control. 

Raanan Gissin, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said that in places where the cease-fire doesn’t hold, Israel will not pull back its forces. The Tenet agreement calls for troops to pull back to the positions they held before fighting broke out Sept. 28. 

Along the road where the Israeli officer was killed, Gissin said “there is not a cease-fire, so we will not redeploy there.” 

Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, chief of Israeli military operations, said it is too early to say whether the Palestinians are putting enough effort into ensuring the cease-fire. “So far we are not very pleased with the results,” Eiland said. 

In other incidents Thursday, Palestinians fired mortar shells at a Jewish settlement in Gaza, Palestinians and Israelis exchanged fire near Nablus, and near Khan Younis in Gaza, Palestinians said Israeli forces fired on demonstrators, wounding six, one critically. Israeli military sources said soldiers fired at the legs of rioters. 

Fatah activists at a rally of about 2,500 people in Rafah said Fatah members had fired Thursday’s mortar shells at the nearby Morag settlement. 

According to the truce terms, both sides must prevent violence. Palestinians must collect illegal weapons, including mortars, and Israelis are not to use lethal weapons against Palestinian demonstrators. 

Israeli police were investigating an attack Wednesday in the West Bank, in which a Palestinian was killed in a drive-by shooting. In messages to Israeli reporters a previously-unknown Jewish group claimed responsibility, indicating the shooting was revenge for Palestinian attacks. 

Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian security chief in the West Bank, said the incident was “proof the Israelis fail to control the settlers and control their people.” 

Israeli settlers and hard-liners demonstrated Thursday in Jerusalem, blocking roads and calling for retaliation for Palestinian attacks. Ten were arrested.