Two Palestinians shot and killed

Monday, December 17, 2001

Associated Press WriterJERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant and a policeman Monday, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of stepping up its military actions a day after he made a strong appeal for an end to the Mideast fighting.

Also Monday, Israeli police briefly detained Sari Nusseibeh -- the Palestinians' chief envoy in the city they see as their capital and an advocate of peacemaking and nonviolence -- while he was holding a Muslim holiday reception in Jerusalem.

Nusseibeh said the event was to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. But Israeli authorities said it violated peace agreements that prohibit the Palestinians from holding "nationalist" events in the disputed city.

In a shooting in Hebron, the Israeli forces attempted to arrest a member of the Hamas movement, Yacoub Aidkadik, 28, at his home, the army said. Aidkadik tried to flee, and soldiers told him to stop. He kept running and was shot dead, the army added.

"I am sorry to say that still the Israelis are escalating their military activities," Arafat said of the shooting. Asked if he viewed the Israeli action as a response to his speech, Arafat replied, "It looks like that."

In a second shooting, Israeli soldiers at a post fired on two plainclothes Palestinian policemen in an unmarked car near Nablus, killing one policeman and wounding the second, Palestinians said. An Israeli military source said only that the soldiers fired on two armed Palestinians.

Faced with repeated Israeli military raids and increasing diplomatic pressure from the West, Arafat delivered a televised address Sunday in which he demanded that Palestinian militants halt suicide bombings and all other "terrorist activity" against Israel. Arafat also said Palestinian police would arrest those who carry out attacks, and called for a quick resumption of peace talks.

The speech marked Arafat's strongest call yet for an end to the nearly 15 months of violence, but it was not clear whether militant Palestinian groups would abide by orders they have ignored in the past.

The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two groups that have claimed more than 30 suicide bombings during the current fighting, have gone underground in a bid to evade both Israeli and Palestinian security forces.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Arafat appeared serious. "We'll wait a few days to see what happens," Peres told army radio.

But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin said the burden was on Arafat to act. "Don't make declarations. Start making arrests, start doing what you promised," Gissin said. "He has to dismantle the suicide bombers' assembly line."

Militants in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank appeared to challenge Arafat's calls.

A roadside bomb went off Monday near Nablus, but no one was hurt, the Israeli army said. Also, militants fired a mortar shell Sunday night at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, but no one was injured, Israel's army said.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli police detained Nusseibeh, the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative to east Jerusalem, as he was greeting some 150 invited guests, including European diplomats, at the Imperial Hotel.

Nusseibeh, a philosophy professor known of his moderate views, was among six Palestinians detained for about two hours and then released. "It was an open reception and I would have welcomed all Israelis," Nusseibeh said upon his release.

Throughout the latest cycle of violence, Arafat has often been evasive when pressed about attacks by Palestinian militants. But faced with mounting pressure, he made an explicit call for an end to Palestinian attacks.

"I am reiterating my call for a comprehensive cessation to all the armed activities," Arafat said from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "I call for a complete stop to all activities, especially the suicide attacks that we condemn always.

Arafat also noted that the Palestinian Authority had declared illegal groups "which are committing terrorist activities."

It was highly unusual for Arafat to refer to attacks by Palestinian militants as "terrorist activities" -- it was believed to be the first time he has employed such language during the current uprising.

When commenting on Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, Arafat and members of his Palestinian Authority typically say they condemn the killings of all civilians, whether they are Israelis or Palestinians.

However, Arafat also asserted that Sharon had "declared war" on the Palestinian Authority. The only way out of the crisis, Arafat said, was to resume peace talks and move toward a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital.

He pledged to arrest Palestinians who carried out attacks, though Israel has sharply criticized what it calls Arafat's "revolving door" policy of temporarily detaining low-level militants, but not locking up leaders of the militant groups.

Israel's Cabinet broke off contacts with Arafat and declared him "irrelevant" after a deadly Palestinian ambush on an Israeli bus near a West Bank settlement last week.

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