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Violence continues despite truce

Published: 11:04PM Wednesday July 11, 2001

Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian woman at a West Bank roadblock on Wednesday, and in a separate incident Israeli police said they arrested a bomb-toting Palestinian in a northern Israeli city.

The latest events, along with a Palestinian mortar bomb attack on an Israeli farming community near the Gaza Strip overnight, which caused no casualties, were further signs that a US-brokered truce was not working.

Palestinian security officials said the soldiers killed the 35-year-old woman as they fired at a taxi that tried to circumvent an Israeli checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Hebron. An Israeli army spokeswoman declined comment.

"I heard shots and a second later all hell broke loose in my car," the taxi driver told Israel Radio, which reported he was ferrying eight Palestinian women labourers to Israel in a car with Israeli licence plates.

"I looked in the mirror and saw the soldiers firing on me from a military vehicle...I was afraid to stop, so I fled," he said. The radio said military police were investigating the shooting.

In the northern Israeli city of Afula, police said they confronted a Palestinian, carrying a bag, who aroused their suspicion.

"During the arrest, the terrorist tried to detonate the bomb. Luckily the bomb was not triggered and the terrorist was caught," northern police chief Yaakov Borovsky told Israel Radio. He said the man came from the West Bank city of Jenin.

In recent days, Israel has stepped up a security alert against a feared new wave of Palestinian bombings. Security checks have been intensified at the entrances to Tel Aviv airport, tying up traffic.

At least 478 Palestinians, 124 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed since a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza erupted last September after peace talks stalled.

Palestinians say Sharon not seeking calm

Nineteen Palestinians, including a suicide bomber, and 10 Israelis have been killed since the sides accepted a ceasefire mediated by US CIA Director George Tenet in mid-June.

Each side says the other is to blame for preventing the truce from taking root.

"Someone like (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, who is leading the cycle of violence against the Palestinian people, will never be interested in calm," Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, an aide to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said.

Sharon's office said in a statement six Palestinians had been arrested by the Shin Bet security service on suspicion of having murdered two Israelis in April as part of an initiation rite into a militant Palestinian organisation.

The latest bloodshed came a day after Israel demolished some 26 homes in the Gaza Strip, an action that was condemned internationally. Israel said it destroyed the houses to deny cover to gunmen who attack its troops on the Gaza-Egypt border.

A State Department official in Washington said the United States had repeatedly urged Israel to stop demolitions of Palestinian homes, calling such operations "provocative".

The European Union said the Israeli house demolitions complicated "further the efforts of the international community and the parties end the crisis".

"It sounds meaningless because such a man like Sharon pays no attention to condemnation whether it comes from America or Europe," Abdel-Rahman said.

In the West Bank town of Qalqilya, armed Palestinians killed a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

Palestinian Authority officials have called on citizens to allow the courts to deal with suspected collaborators. In the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday a Palestinian man was sentenced to life in prison with hard labour for collaboration.

Since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September, the Palestinian Authority has executed two convicted collaborators. Several others suspected of working with Israel have been killed by armed and masked Palestinians.

© Reuters