Israeli troops kill Palestinian entering West Bank settlement; Palestinians condemn shooting

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man entering a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Thursday, drawing a Palestinian accusation that soldiers are too quick to open fire.

Also Thursday, the Palestinian leader said direct negotiations with Israel are "inevitable," but he listed a series of conditions.

The military said troops were lying in ambush early Thursday outside the Barkan settlement in the central West Bank when they spotted three men breaking into the settlement. It said one of the men was suspected of being armed, but Palestinians said the man was not carrying a weapon.

The military said troops called on the men to stop, firing warning shots in the air. When they did not comply, the troops opened fire, killing one of the men. The others escaped.

The military said soldiers engaged the three just after they entered the settlement.

The military said numerous similar attempts had been made in the area in recent weeks, so troops were posted in ambushes to stop them. They said Palestinians entered the settlement several times recently and stole from houses.

The Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank under Israel's overall security control, condemned the killing, noting the deaths in similar circumstances of four Palestinians in March.

The Palestinians called the shooting "irresponsible." Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, called on Israel "to be more careful with these types of incidents."

Khatib identified the man as Bilal Abu Libdeh, 35, from the northern West Bank city of Qalqiliya. He said Abu Libdeh was found to be unarmed when his body was recovered and that no one knew why he and the others sought to enter the settlement.

"Regardless of the reason for them going there, they shouldn't be killed," he said.

In another development Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said any agreement with Israel must be achieved in direct negotiations. He repeated the Palestinian conditions for direct talks: A complete halt to construction in Israeli settlements and agreement to draw borders based on the pre-1967 war lines, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the Palestinian state.

Speaking at a joint news conference after meeting Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Abbas said, "We know that direct negotiations are inevitable, meaning that in the end, the agreement won't come from America or any other country."

Israel has imposed a partial halt to settlement construction but has not agreed to spell out its stands on issues like borders before direct negotiations resume. President Barack Obama's envoy, George Mitchell, has been mediating indirect contacts for several months.

In the past Abbas has called for a solution imposed by the U.S. and has agreed to the posting of NATO troops in the West Bank.


Associated Press writer Dalia Nammari contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.