At least four dead in wake of West Bank violence

Friday August 31, 2001

JERUSALEM (AP) — Three Palestinians were killed and 30 wounded Thursday in clashes with Israeli troops, dimming hopes that a limited U.S-backed truce in one Palestinian town might spread to other areas of the West Bank. 

Also Thursday, an Israeli was gunned down by a masked man in a Palestinian village as he sat in a restaurant he helped a friend establish. 

Early Friday, an explosion damaged an apartment in a building in the West Bank town of Ramallah where a leader of a large PLO faction lives, but his apartment was not affected and he was unhurt. 

Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved into the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border early Friday and tore down at least two houses, Palestinians said. The Israeli military had no comment. 

In contrast, calm prevailed in the town of Beit Jalla after Israeli forces withdrew just before daybreak Thursday, ending a two-day operation aimed at stopping Palestinian gunfire at a Jewish neighborhood across a valley, in a disputed part of Jerusalem. 

In the divided West Bank city of Hebron, however, street battles erupted after the funeral of an officer in Force 17, an elite unit of Arafat’s security forces, who was killed in a clash Wednesday. 

Gunmen took cover behind buildings and fired at Israeli tanks in the Israel-controlled sector of Hebron, drawing return fire. A 50-year-old Palestinian doctor was shot and killed as he ran to retrieve his car. Palestinians said he was not involved in the fighting. 

The Israeli military said the exchanges of fire went on throughout the day. They denied a Palestinian claim that an Israeli tank entered the Palestinian section of the city. Most of Hebron was handed over to Palestinian control in 1997, but Israel still controls the center, where about 500 Jewish settlers live in three enclaves among tens of thousands of Palestinians. 

Another firefight broke out in the northern part of the West Bank. One Palestinian was killed and nine wounded in the clash, Palestinian doctors said. 

Earlier, Israeli troops shot and wounded two Palestinians near the camp. Palestinians said they were members of the radical Islamic Jihad, and that Israel had targeted them. 

for killing. The Israeli military would not confirm this, saying only that they were planting a bomb. 

In Gaza after nightfall, a Palestinian policeman was killed and four wounded when Israel shelled a Force 17 post in retaliation for mortar shelling of a Jewish settlement, Palestinian security officials said. The Israeli military said its forces opened fire on a group of armed Palestinians who were firing at a Jewish settlement in Gaza. 

In all on Thursday, 30 Palestinians were wounded, doctors said. 

The 60-year-old Israeli was gunned down in a restaurant in the Palestinian village of Naalin as he waited to be served. The owner, a Palestinian, told Israel radio that the victim was his friend and had helped him open the restaurant. 

Since fighting erupted last September, 597 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 164 on the Israeli side. 

Jerusalem police said Thursday they captured a Palestinian armed with two automatic weapons who was planning a gunfire attack in a Jerusalem neighborhood. They surrounded a house where police said his accomplice escaped. 

In Gaza, Israeli soldiers lifted a blockade on a main road after cutting it for two days. Earlier Thursday, soldiers refused to let a senior U.N. official pass through. 

Palestinian security officials were investigating the explosion early Friday in the Ramallah apartment building where Quyes Abu Layla of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine lives. 

The officials did not accuse Israel of involvement. Neighbors said a member of the militant group Hamas was injured and speculated he may have been making a bomb in his apartment. On Monday, Israel killed the leader of the PFLP, Mustafa Zibri, in a missile attack in Ramallah. 

Despite the persistent violence and harsh Palestinian criticism of the latest incursion, Peres remained hopeful. He has been promoting the concept of a staged cease-fire to end the fighting, starting in areas where Arafat has the strongest control. 

He hoped that the agreement over Beit Jalla would lead to talks next week on widening the truce, Israeli media reported. 

Arriving Thursday in Durban, South Africa for a U.N. conference on racism, Arafat said, “We are trying our best” to arrange a cease-fire. 

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called the Beit Jalla incursion a success, because after nearly a year of gunfire at Gilo, Arafat “agreed to take upon himself the obligation to do everything to ensure quiet there.” 

However, several Israeli Cabinet ministers, including Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, criticized the decision to pull the army out of Beit Jalla. Landau said Arafat had no intention of permanently stopping the fire at Gilo, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 war and later annexed to Jerusalem.