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October 06, 2002

Roundup of news items in Middle East

NABLUS, West Bank - Israeli troops yesterday killed a Palestinian youth during clashes in the West Bank's most populous city, the fifth such death in two weeks. Israel's military intelligence chief, meanwhile, said Yasser Arafat's followers are trying to prevent terror attacks inside Israel.

In Washington, a Bush administration official said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet with President Bush on Oct. 16. Israeli news media said the talks would deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict and possible U.S. action in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Arafat yesterday signed Palestinian legislation defining Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia said.

Qureia said Arafat decided to sign the two-year-old bill now in response to a demand by the U.S. congress that Jerusalem be recognized as Israel's capital.

Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but most countries, including the United States, have their embassies in Tel Aviv. Eastern Jerusalem was captured by Israel from Jordanian rule in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed afterward.

The new Palestinian law is symbolic since Israel has full control over both parts of the city and Sharon has pledged not to redivide it.

In the West Bank, the shooting of Amer Hashem, 15, came during the sort of confrontation that has become common in the Nablus area, where youths often defy the nearly continuous curfew Israel has imposed since mid-June in response to two suicide bombings by Palestinian militants.

The army said soldiers fired in self defense after they were attacked with stones and at least one bomb, but they were not aware of any casualties.

Foreign governments and aid organizations have increasingly expressed concern about the deaths of children during the two-year Palestinian uprising against Israel. More than 230 children or teenagers are among the more than 1,800 Palestinians who have died during the uprising.

Many Nablus residents routinely skirt the curfew, emerging from their homes when they don't see soldiers in the area. Many children attend school and troops often ignore them.

But there have also been clashes, often when children and teenagers throw stones at tanks and draw a response of tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds.

Four other Palestinians aged 10 to 15 had been shot to death in Nablus and nearby refugee camps over the past two weeks and a 12-year-old was in critical condition after being shot in the head. An Israeli soldier and two Palestinian adults also have been killed.

Masked men firing rifles carried Hashem's still-bloody body on an angry funeral procession through the Al Ein refugee camp bordering Nablus following the death.

Meanwhile, Israel's military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, appeared to contradict Sharon and other senior politicians yesterday when he said that the Yasser Arafat-led Palestinian Authority was trying to halt terror attacks inside Israel.

Farkash said that Arafat's Fatah movement and its affiliated Tanzim militia were not carrying out attacks beyond the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, and were pressuring militant Islamic groups to follow their example.

"Not only are Fatah and the Tanzim not doing this," Farkash said. "Senior people in the Palestinian Authority are starting to take up the issue with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop their operations."

Arafat himself denounced such attacks in an interview published on Saturday by the London-based Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat.

"We are the ones who decide as a leadership," Arafat said. "Neither my military honor nor our Islamic religion accept the killing of a woman in the street or at a cafe, or a civilian man or a child, or in a university."

But he denied having condemned attacks on soldiers or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In other events:

Jakob Kellenberger, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, arrived for a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to highlight the organization's concern at "a steadily worsening situation, characterized by disregard for the principles of international humanitarian law." It is the first trip to Israel in seven years by an ICRC president.

Four Palestinians from the village of Aqraba near Nablus were hospitalized with severe cuts, saying they had been attacked while picking olives by Israelis from the West Bank settlement of Itamar. Settlers there have often clashed with villagers over plans to expand their settlement into now-Palestinian lands. On June 20, a Palestinian infiltrated Itamar and killed five settlers. The army said it had no information on the incident.

In the Gaza Strip, the Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for explosives that went off in the path of an Israeli military patrol yesterday. Israel's military said no one was hurt in the blast near the Israeli settlement of Nisanit. Hamas said the explosion was "the first in a series of attacks" meant to avenge Israel's unsuccessful Sept. 26 attempt to kill Hamas bomb maker Mohammed Deif.

(Published: October 6, 2002)
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