Four Palestinians, Jew Killed in Violence
JERUSALEM – Violence hit Jerusalem and the West Bank Wednesday, with four Palestinians and a Jew killed, a day after Israel completed its historic evacuation of 25 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.
Late Wednesday, four Palestinian militants were killed during an Israeli army arrest raid in the Tulkarem (search) refugee camp, residents said. Israeli soldiers surrounded a house and exchanged fire with militants inside and outside, witnesses said.
The bodies of the four dead were brought to the Tulkarem hospital an hour after the incident. Residents said they were members of Islamic Jihad (search). Two other Palestinians were wounded, they said.
Israeli military officials identified the Palestinians involved in the confrontation as top local leaders of the Islamic Jihad, responsible for the last two bombings in Israel — in Tel Aviv (search) in February and Netanya in July.
Earlier in Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed two young ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Old City, police said, calling it a terror attack. One of the victims later died of his wounds. The assailant escaped.
Israeli media reported that the dead man was a young seminary student from Britain. His name was not released.
Also Wednesday, the Justice Ministry said Israel issued orders to seize Palestinian land to build its separation barrier along a route that would effectively annex the West Bank's largest Jewish settlement to Jerusalem.
Palestinians objected to the seizure, and said that the barrier would cut them off from the part of Jerusalem they claim for a state and reinforce Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's intention to solidify Israel's grip on its main West Bank settlement blocs after the Gaza pullout.
The settlement, Maaleh Adumim, three miles east of Jerusalem in the Judean desert, has about 30,000 residents. Sharon has said repeatedly that it will remain in Israel even after a final peace accord with the Palestinians.
Israel says the barrier is needed to keep suicide bombers from entering the country. When complete, the 425-mile complex of walls, electric fences, trenches and barbed wire is expected to include about 8 percent of the West Bank on the "Israeli" side.
Amos Gil, executive director of Ir Amim, an Israeli settlement monitoring group, said the Maaleh Adumim barrier confiscation would seize about 23 square miles of land.
Attorney General Meni Mazuz approved the order after a legal review, the Justice Ministry said.
"Such decisions will only serve to undermine any efforts to resume negotiations," said a senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat.
The United States issued a statement saying the barrier "is a problem to the extent that it prejudges final borders, confiscates Palestinian property or imposes further hardship on the Palestinian people."
Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem for a state, complaining that that barrier route unilaterally sets a border. Palestinians have praised Israel's pullout from Gaza and the West Bank, but insist it must be followed by an exit from the rest of the territory.
In the aftermath of the pullout from Gaza, Israeli media reported that a West Bank rabbi was brought to court to face allegations that he led the most violent episode, where extremists battled soldiers from the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue, dousing them with paint and other liquids. Rabbi Yaakov Savir is to be charged with aggravated assault, the reports said, and 60 of his young followers are in prison.
On Wednesday, Israel proposed a dual crossing between Gaza and Egypt, defense officials said. The current Rafah crossing would allow for free exit of people and goods, and a new crossing would be built at the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border for entry under Israeli supervision. Palestinians rejected the idea.
The issue of the Rafah crossing is seen as critical to the future of Gaza. The crossing is Gaza's only land link to the outside world without passing through Israel, which plans to maintain control over the territory's Mediterranean seacoast and its airspace.
Israel is concerned about terrorists and weapons entering Gaza after its evacuation, and also about being flooded with cheap goods through Gaza.
Palestinian Economics Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot rejected the Israeli proposal. He said the Palestinians want to maintain the Rafah crossing for both people and goods, with no Israeli supervision in either direction.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Mohammed Dahlan expected an agreement in the coming week. "We are still following with the Israeli side the possibility to carry out substantial changes on border crossings," he said.