JERUSALEM – Palestinian gunmen ambushed an Israeli minivan driving through the northern West Bank (search) early Monday, riddling the vehicle with bullets, killing one passenger and wounding a second.
The attack — along with the fatal shooting of a Palestinian man by the army and an alleged bombing attempt Monday — was part of a recent spike in violence that has weakened an already shaky truce.
The violence came ahead of a planned meeting Tuesday between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search), who are expected to discuss coordination for the withdrawal.
Early Monday, Palestinian gunmen hiding in an alley shot at the minivan as it drove near the West Bank town of Jenin, the army said. One Israeli was shot in the forehead and killed, and the other occupant was slightly wounded, it said. The gunmen escaped.
The minivan, which burst into flames when its fuel tank was hit, continued traveling toward a nearby army roadblock, Maj. Sharon Asman said. Soldiers ran over to the vehicle and helped the occupants out before it exploded, Asman said.
The vehicle was left a blackened, charred husk, its paint melted and its windows shattered.
Islamic Jihad militants claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for the alleged desecration of the Islamic holy book at a prison in Israel, and Israel's continued pursuit of the group's members. Israel rejects the desecration charges as fabrication.
Khadr Adnan, an Islamic Jihad (search) spokesman in the West Bank, said the attack didn't signal the end of the cease-fire between Palestinian groups and Israel. "We are still committed to calm," he said.
The shooting was the third Islamic Jihad attack in as many days. One Israeli soldier and two militants died in the previous clashes.
The militant group said those attacks came in retaliation for Israel's arrest of Islamic Jihad militants last week.
Asman said the army would continue to "take action against Islamic Jihad in a pinpointed fashion, against cells and groups that ... continue to carry out attacks, with minimum friction with the rest of the population."
Also Monday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man and wounded another as they tried to climb over the fence from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Palestinian hospital officials said. The men were unarmed civilians, hospital officials said.
The army said soldiers fired at the men's legs after they ignored warning shots.
The army also said it arrested an injured Palestinian woman who unsuccessfully tried to blow herself up at a crossing from Gaza into Israel. The women, who was suffering from burn wounds, was given permission to cross into Israel for treatment, said Maj. Sharon Feingold, an army spokeswomen.
When the woman approached the Erez crossing, suspicious soldiers asked her to raise her hands and she tried to detonate the bomb, Feingold said. The bomb did not explode, and the army later defused it and arrested the women, she said.
The woman's family identified her as Wafa al-Biss, 21, from the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Her cousin, Wael al-Biss, said she had burned her face five months ago and was heading to Israel to get treatment. The family did not know she was planning a suicide bombing, he said.
No militant group claimed immediately responsibility.
Separately, Palestinians fired five mortar shells at three Jewish settlements in Gaza. No injuries were reported.
The recent violence "underscores the need for the Palestinian Authority to take definitive and decisive measures to prevent terror against Israel," said David Baker, an official in Sharon's office.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al Kidwa said the Palestinians remained committed to the truce.
"We condemn all violations of the truce. There have been Israeli violations, and there have been violations from the Palestinian groups. Our point of view is that such violations do not serve the Palestinian interest," he said.
Abbas declared his commitment to a peaceful Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and four northern West Bank settlements as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapped up a two-day visit to the region Sunday. A quiet pullout could pave the way for the resumption of peace talks after more than four years of violence.
Israel is afraid that militants intent on proving they are driving Israel out of Gaza will step up attacks during the mid-August pullout. It has threatened harsh retaliation if settlers or troops are attacked.
Speaking to Israel TV on Sunday night, Abbas said he is committed to preserving the calm during the withdrawal. "We will do all that we can to ensure that the disengagement is carried out quietly," he said.
Sharon originally proposed the Gaza pullout as a unilateral act, but after reaching a truce with Abbas in February, he said he would be willing to coordinate it with the Palestinians.
Abbas will meet Sharon Tuesday at the Israeli leader's residence in Jerusalem, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.