JERUSALEM – Israeli soldiers shot and killed an 8-year-old Palestinian boy during a raid Tuesday in the West Bank, Palestinians said, and an Israeli was killed by Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem, bringing tanks rumbling into the town for the first time in months.
A high-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss an end to more than two years of violence failed to take place.
Palestinians said Israeli troops searching for militants surrounded two houses in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, and Palestinians threw firebombs at them. The soldiers opened fire, killing the boy and wounding nine other people, they said.
The Israeli military confirmed soldiers shot at Palestinians who threw firebombs, but did not know if anyone was hit.
In Bethlehem, Palestinians fired on an Israeli army jeep near the Church of the Nativity, Israeli military officers said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Israeli media said an Israeli was killed. Palestinians said a sniper fired at the jeep. Israeli soldiers declared a curfew in Bethlehem after the shooting.
Israeli soldiers declared a curfew in Bethlehem after the shooting and closed off streets near the Deheishe refugee camp and the Church of the Nativity -- which Christians believe is built on the spot where Jesus was born. Two tanks entered the town for the first time since June, residents said.
Since June, Israel has reoccupied every Palestinian West Bank town and city, except Jericho. It briefly withdrew from Bethlehem, only to re-enter following a November homicide bombing in which 11 Israelis were killed. The bomber's hometown was Bethlehem.
In Gaza, soldiers shot and killed a Hamas militant carrying a Kalashnikov rifle near the Kissufim crossing into Israel late Monday, the military said. His body, with a bulletproof vest, was found at daylight Tuesday.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, soldiers shot a suspected Palestinian militant as he fled, the army said. Israel Radio said the man was killed and was a member of the Tanzim militia, affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
However, activists in the Islamic Jihad said one of their leaders was shot and seriously wounded during a gunbattle.
A meeting tentatively set for Tuesday between a top aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Hani al-Hassan, the Palestinian interior minister, who is in charge of security, did not take place, officials said. The aide, Dov Weisglass, was to have seen al-Hassan, but the meeting was postponed for what were described as technical reasons.
Sharon spokesman Arnon Perlman said the meeting was never finalized and that it would take place in coming days.
Sharon met last week with top aides to Arafat, his first direct contact with Palestinian officials in a year, raising prospects of renewed efforts for a truce. Media reports say Israel is offering a gradual process, pulling out of Palestinian towns one by one if Palestinian forces keep militants in check -- a formula tried unsuccessfully several times in the past.
Israel accuses Arafat of encouraging Palestinian attacks, but the commander of Israel's army, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said Arafat's involvement at the local level was indirect.
"Arafat never deals in planning attacks, but he sends out messages that are translated or understood as a green light for terrorism," Yaalon said in an interview with Israeli TV.
Israel clamped a closure on the West Bank and Gaza, banning all Palestinians from entering Israel and maintaining tight travel restrictions in the West Bank, to coincide with the four-day Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice holiday, which began Tuesday. The Israelis cited intelligence warnings that Palestinians were preparing major terror attacks.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said, "The Palestinian Authority is not making any efforts to stop the waves of terror and it is in our hands today."
Arafat charged that Israel was trying to break the Palestinian people through the closure.
"They are insisting on making these troubles against our people, but our people are very strong," Arafat told reporters after attending holiday prayers in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "The mountain will not be shaken by the wind."
Despite the closure order, some Palestinians climbed over walls to enter Jerusalem as Israeli border police looked on Tuesday. Others circumvented roadblocks, hiking through fields on dirt paths across the unmarked line between the West Bank and Israel, as hundreds, perhaps thousands do every day to work illegally in Israel.