Palestinians demand revenge during funeral of two gunmen

Saturday, September 8, 2001

JERUSALEM -- Thousands of Palestinians clamoring for revenge buried two gunmen killed in an Israeli helicopter attack, while Palestinian officials reiterated Friday that no date has been set for high-level truce talks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has said he would meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat next week, possibly at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The funeral procession in the West Bank town of Tulkarem was led by a local militia chief, Raed Karmi, who was the intended target of the missile attack, but escaped.

"The message is very clear to ... all the Israeli leaders: We will continue our armed struggle," said Karmi, who stands accused by Israel of having killed six Israelis in shooting ambushes this year.

Shaking their fists in the air, women in the crowd chanted slogans against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "Sharon, just wait, Raed Karmi will dig your grave."

On Thursday evening, an Israeli army officer was killed and a second seriously wounded in a Palestinian shooting ambush in Israel, on the edge of the West Bank, and Karmi's group claimed responsibility, saying the attack came in revenge for the Israeli helicopter strike.

The helicopter attack drew criticism from the U.S. State Department. Spokesman Richard Boucher said the attacks "don't help the effort to halt the violence and the terror." He added an appeal to the Palestinians to stop attacks against Israelis.

Boucher said the State Department has not reached a conclusion that Israel's use of U.S.-made weapons is against American law. "We've made it quite clear that we're opposed to the policy of targeted killings," he said, but preferred to avoid "pushing this into a legalistic discussion."

American law requires that U.S.-supplied weapons must be used for legitimate defensive purposes.

Despite the violence, European Union mediators have been trying to arrange a series of three meetings between Peres and Arafat.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said Friday that the Europeans propose holding the first meeting in the Middle East, the second in Europe and the third in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Shaath reiterated that there was no final agreement on a time and place for the talks.

Peres, speaking late Thursday in Italy, said he expected to meet Arafat next week.

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