JERUSALEM – Israeli troops killed two Palestinians, including a fugitive Islamic militant, in a gun battle at a West Bank firehouse Friday. As daily violence continued, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tried to arrange a meeting with President Bush to discuss a U.S. peace plan.
Sharon, re-elected to another term this week in a sweeping victory, spoke with Bush by phone about meeting in Washington to discuss an American peace plan that aims to create a Palestinian state by 2005, a senior official in Sharon's office said.
The meeting is unlikely to happen soon, however, because of U.S. preparations for a possible war with Iraq, the official said.
In the West Bank town of Jenin, Iyad Abu Lael, a 21-year-old wanted Hamas activist was killed Friday after he ran from troops, the Israeli military and Palestinian security officials said.
They said he fled into a firehouse with two other men, then came out firing and was killed by the troops.
Another man, a 52-year-old Palestinian security guard, Hassan Ahmed, was also killed in the exchange of fire, and gunbattles along the street left the fire station's walls and trucks scarred with bullet marks.
The military said two other suspected militants were arrested.
After the gunfight, a grieving woman wrapped her arms around the dead Hamas man's blood-streaked face, his eyes wide open.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, soldiers blew up two houses belonging to other Palestinian militants, leaving more than 15 of their relatives homeless in the city of Hebron. In a haze of tear gas, tanks rumbled through streets that run between Jewish enclaves and Palestinian neighborhoods.
Israeli troops have been in control of most West Bank cities since June, when Israel carried out an offensive in response to Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel.
Israel's tough hold in the West Bank, which includes nightly operations to arrest suspected militants, looked likely to continue after Tuesday's Israeli election.
In the election, Sharon won voter endorsement of his heavy crackdown on the Palestinians after more than two years of violence. Hawkish parties, including Sharon's Likud, gained a majority of 69 seats in the 120-member parliament.
Though Likud is by far the largest party in the new parliament, Sharon still has to put together a coalition to secure the majority. Likud won 37 seats.
Whether it will be a narrow right-wing government or a broad-based coalition with the dovish Labor Party could determine the direction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sharon has said he wants Labor in the government. However, Sharon opposes Labor's platform, which calls for the withdrawal of soldiers and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Sharon has ruled out any peace talks until violence stops.