RAMALLAH, West Bank – Israeli troops fired on a car traveling down a West Bank road closed to Palestinians on Tuesday, killing a 95-year-old Palestinian woman, according to a Palestinian hospital official.
In Hebron, Israeli army officers went door-to-door Tuesday ordering Palestinians to vacate houses on a road where Israeli security forces were caught in a deadly ambush last month, and Palestinian officials decried the seizures as a step toward expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
In Tuesday's fatal shooting, Fattier Mohammed Hassan, 95, and another woman, Kifaya Ra'fat, 41, were in the back seat of a car approaching a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah, Ra'fat said.
"The soldiers were running toward us, shooting in all directions. They started to hit the windows of the car" with their weapons, she said from her hospital bed in Ramallah. After breaking the windows the soldiers retreated then began shooting at the vehicle from a distance; she was shot in the thigh and Hassan was killed, Ra'fat said.
Mohammed Wahdan, a doctor at Ramallah's hospital, confirmed Hassan "was killed after being shot by one bullet in the back."
An Israeli military source said a Palestinian car was moving fast on a road closed to Palestinians and soldiers fired warning shots into the air. When the car didn't stop, the soldiers fired at the wheels of the car, the source said, adding that he had no information on casualties.
At the hospital, relatives waited for Hassan's body to arrive. Her daughter, Aisha, 58, said her mother was born in 1907.
Patricia Smith, of Palestine Monitor, a group that tracks Palestinian casualties, said Hassan is the oldest Palestinian to be killed in the fighting.
Since Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out in Sept. 2000, 1,951 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 684 on the Israeli side.
Israeli troops took over Ramallah and most other West Bank population centers several months ago in an effort to stop suicide bombings and shooting attacks in Israel. The military also controls roads in between the Palestinian towns.
In Hebron — the only West Bank town where Jewish settlers and Palestinians live in close proximity — army officials distributed notices telling Palestinian residents the houses along the stretch where the Israelis were ambushed last month would be destroyed or taken over by the army.
Most of the buildings are old and many are already empty — reportedly because residents feared violence from Jewish settlers.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said the seizure notices reflected "the determination of this Israeli government to continue settlement activity."
Warrants signed by Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, head of the army's central command, said the land will be taken and buildings destroyed "to prevent terror attacks and attacks against civilians and army troops."
It said land seized would be owned "exclusively by the army."
Talia Somech, an army spokeswoman, said the Palestinians have three days to appeal the confiscation of the buildings and two days to appeal confiscation of the land.
Twelve Israeli soldiers and guards were killed Nov. 16 when Palestinian gunmen opened fire at worshippers walking along the road connecting the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, just outside Hebron, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs about a half-mile away inside the city. The site is holy to Jews and Muslims.
Two days later, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for strengthening the Jewish settlement in the area by linking up the settlement enclaves in Hebron and Kiryat Arba.
Settler supporters have been rallying to make Sharon stick to his promise and give permission to start building houses — first at the encampment site, then elsewhere in Hebron.
About 130,000 Palestinians live in Hebron, along with some 500 Jewish settlers in several small enclaves. There is constant friction between the two sides. Several thousand Jewish settlers live in Kiryat Arba.
Meanwhile, a jailed leader of the Palestinian uprising, Marwan Barghouti, called for change Tuesday in the Palestinian Authority — the first time he has openly challenged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In a written response to questions from The Associated Press presented to him by his lawyer, Barghouti said the Palestinian Authority should hurry along elections and make way for a new, younger leadership. However, Barghouti did not mention Arafat specifically.
"It is the time for many of the Palestinian leaders and officials to leave their positions after failing in their roles and responsibilities in this decisive battle," Barghouti said, referring to the 2-year-old Palestinian uprising.
Barghouti, who steadfastly supports the militarization of the uprising, is among the most popular Palestinian leaders. He was arrested during Israel's military offensive in the West Bank in April and is on trial for murder, attempted murder and being an accessory to murder for organizing attacks that killed 26 Israelis.