JERUSALEM – Palestinians fired mortar shells at a tiny Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip early Friday, a day after a West Bank drive-by shooting victim became the fourth settler to be killed this week.
Four shells fell near the Jewish settlement of Slav in the Gush Katif bloc of enclaves in the southern part of Gaza, the Israeli military said. The shells exploded near the settlement's greenhouses, and no one was hurt.
The latest Mideast violence came as thousands of Palestinians gathered to accompany the body of Faisal Husseini, the top Palestinian official in Jerusalem, who died of a heart attack during a visit to Kuwait on Thursday.
A Palestinian teenager was killed Thursday in a clash with Israeli forces near Ramallah on the West Bank, a Palestinian child died a month after being injured in a Gaza Strip explosion and an Israeli settler died in a West Bank shooting -- the fourth settler killed this week.
Angry settlers demanded that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who declared a unilateral cease-fire last week, drop his stated policy of restraint and hit back. Palestinians have dismissed Sharon's cease-fire call as a publicity stunt, blaming Israel for the violence.
Late Thursday, an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded by Palestinian gunfire at an Israeli army vehicle near Ramallah in the West Bank, the military said. Since fighting erupted last September, 483 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 88 on the Israeli side, including 24 settlers.
Also Thursday, a Palestinian man who was imprisoned for a year by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Israelis was shot and killed in front of his house In the West Bank town of Bethlehem by gunmen in a passing car. Palestinian police said they were investigating the killing.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat linked Husseini's death to the latest violence. He said Husseini had a heart condition that was aggravated when he recently inhaled Israeli tear gas on a trip in the West Bank. He said Husseini's health was affected by Israeli tear gas.
After eight months of violence, the United States is making efforts to bring the two sides together again. U.S. diplomats met with Israeli officials Thursday to discuss implementation of a report by an international commission headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
The report's recommendations included a step-by-step process to end the violence, confidence-building measures and a return to negotiations.
In Washington, Israeli President Moshe Katsav met separately Thursday with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Katsav said he asked Bush to set a deadline for the Palestinians to end attacks on Israel, ands that Bush called it "an interesting idea" but made no commitment.
Powell also telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Arafat. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he asked Arafat "to make a 100 percent effort to calm the situation and to implement the Mitchell committee's call for an immediate, unconditional, cessation of violence."