Israeli Troops Kill Islamic Militant, Arrest 12 Others

Israeli troops killed a suspected Palestinian militant in a West Bank refugee camp early Wednesday as he tried to escape, the army said.

It marked the second time in two days that soldiers killed a wanted man during an attempted arrest, prompting complaints by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that the world is turning a blind eye to Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"I ask the world why it is silent when crimes are being committed against the Palestinian people in this holy land," Arafat told reporters.

Also Wednesday, Israeli troops arrested two dozen Palestinians, including 12 suspected Islamic militants. Among those arrested in the town of Tulkarem was an activist in the Islamic Jihad group who had planned an attack on Israelis, the army said.

In the Balata refugee camp, adjoining the city of Nablus, soldiers killed suspected militant Osama Badra, 28, as he tried to escape. An army spokeswoman said that after a search of the man's three-story home turned up nothing he was spotted on the roof. Soldiers called on him to give himself up and fired warning shots, but when he tried to flee he was shot and killed, she said.

There were conflicting reports on whether Badra was a member of Islamic Jihad or the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat. The lines between factions are often blurred, and dozens of armed men have quit the poorly funded Al Aqsa militia in recent weeks to join Islamic Jihad, which gets money from Iran.

On Tuesday, a Hamas activist was killed in similar circumstances in Gaza.

A Palestinian court on Tuesday ordered the release of the central figure in a huge seaborne arms shipment intercepted by Israel, but a senior Israeli official hinted he would be hunted down if he is freed.

Fuad Shobaki, a senior financial official in the Palestinian Authority, has been held in a Palestinian lockup in the desert oasis of Jericho since May. Israel charges that he was the mastermind of the arms shipment on board the Karine A, commandeered by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea in January.

At first, Arafat denied that the 50 tons of arms on the ship were meant for his Palestinian Authority, but later he backtracked on the denial. The huge shipment, which included machine guns, rockets, mortars and explosives — all banned under interim peace deals with Israel — contributed to a U.S. policy shift away from Arafat's regime.

The Palestinian Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that there was no evidence that Shobaki was involved in the arms shipment. However, his lawyer, Hussein Shiyoukhi, asked Palestinian officials to keep Shobaki where he is for now, "until we can settle the whole issue with other parties," referring to Israel, the United States and Britain.

Shobaki was among the people marooned in Arafat's Ramallah headquarters for several weeks while Israeli tanks maintained a siege. In the end, an agreement was reached under which Shobaki and others wanted by Israel were transported to Jericho under the supervision of British and U.S. jailers, in exchange for ending the siege.

If Shobaki is freed, that would violate the agreement, said Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, indicating that Israel would hunt for him.