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Israel says it's prepared to scale back security rules
JERUSALEM -- Firing from long range Sunday, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian militant accused of orchestrating a suicide bombing that killed 22 people in June.
Sunday's shooting raised Mideast tensions, but Israel said it was prepared to scale back some security restrictions imposed on Palestinians.
Palestinians called the death of Abed-Rahman Hamad, a regional leader of the radical Islamic group Hamas, a serious violation of a shaky truce, and said the shooting was timed to undermine the latest efforts to solidify the cease-fire. Hamas vowed to strike back against Israel.
While Palestinians were harshly critical of Israel in public statements, political leaders and security officials held private talks with the Israelis on removing barriers to Palestinian movements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Barring last-minute glitches, Israel was expected to start lifting a number of restraints Sunday night and today, the Palestinians said.
Hamad was hit in the back by two bullets while standing on his roof shortly after sunrise in Qalqilya, along the border between Israel and the West Bank. An Israeli official acknowledged Israel was responsible.
Killings to continue
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that such killings would continue as long as deemed necessary
"It is not the first, nor the last," he said in a speech.
Hamad, 35, knew the Israelis were after him and rarely strayed far from his home, except to visit a nearby mosque for prayers, acquaintances said.
He attended pre-dawn prayers Sunday and was atop his flattop roof when he was hit by Israeli troops about 300 yards away, according to acquaintances.
Shortly after the shooting, Sharon's office released a statement saying Hamad directed the June 1 suicide attack at a Tel Aviv disco that killed 22 people, mostly Israeli teen-agers.