Palestinian shot dead trying to cross into Israel; U.S. bid to shore up truce continues - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Palestinian shot dead trying to cross into Israel; U.S. bid to shore up truce continues

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian trying to sneak over a fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Saturday, as a senior American envoy pursued intense international efforts to keep the relative calm and iron out the details of a frail cease-fire.

In Gaza, a leading Islamic militant was detained by Palestinian police, witnesses said, but released hours later. The arrest of activists involved in anti-Israeli attacks is a key Israeli condition for the continuation of the cease-fire.

Also bolstering the truce was the fact that by late Saturday, Israel had still not retaliated for a suicide bombing by the militant Islamic group Hamas that killed two Israeli soldiers in Gaza a day earlier. Israel usually strikes back quickly in the wake of such incidents.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns said Saturday after a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that the United States expected both sides to fulfill their commitments to the cease-fire, which was worked out by CIA director George Tenet.

``It's obvious that there can be no military solution to this problem,'' Burns told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah. ``It's only through a political process that security can be re-established.''

As part of increased American involvement, Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to visit the region starting Thursday, following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to Washington.

In a hint of the seriousness of efforts to keep the truce going, Arafat offered an unusually explicit assertion that Jewish settlers should not be targeted by Palestinians.

``I announced a total cease-fire, and the Palestinian leadership accepted it, and it includes all the Israelis,'' Arafat said Saturday on Israel's Channel Two, in response to a question about whether Palestinians were forbidden from firing on settlers under terms of the truce.

At the same time, Arafat aide Saeb Erekat denounced what he called ``settler terror,'' in reference to settlers' attacks on Palestinians. Palestinians regard all Jewish settlements as illegal and have killed more than two dozen settlers in drive-by attacks and roadside shootings during nine months of violence, often drawing retaliation.

Despite the relative lull, violence continued Saturday. Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man _ found to be carrying grenades and a pistol, the army said _ and arrested two others as they tried to climb over a fence into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas confirmed the three had planned an attack.

About 1,500 Hamas activists celebrated the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in a suicide bombing on Friday, parading through the streets of Gaza City in a tribute to the bomber, firing guns in the air and vowing more attacks.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, eight Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas in clashes Saturday in the village of Aboad north of Ramallah, doctors said. The army said it dispersed a demonstration of about 250 Palestinians in the area.

The army also destroyed four buildings in the area of Rafah along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt to clear land and prevent attacks, a military spokesman said. Palestinian officials 17 structures were destroyed and one person was injured.

Palestinian families who fled the bulldozers returned later Saturday to salvage belongings from the remains of their homes. Amal Barhoum, 17, wearing her school uniform, attempted to pry open a cupboard poking out of the rubble.

``I'm trying to find my science book _ I have an exam in it today,'' she said.

The United States hopes to get the Palestinians to arrest those involved in attacks on Israelis. But senior Arafat aide Nabil Shaath said ``there are laws and measures and proofs'' to be observed in such cases.

Underscoring the sensitivity of such arrests, the Palestinian Authority would not confirm the brief detention of Sheik Abdullah Shami, the spiritual leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group, a day after he gave a fiery speech denouncing the cease-fire. But witnesses reported he was picked up by Palestinian police early Saturday.

Hours later, he told The Associated Press he was free but in hiding. A Palestinian security official speaking on condition of anonymity said some people accused of violating the cease-fire had been questioned or detained in the past several days.

Since the outbreak of hostilities in late September, 497 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 117 on the Israeli side.
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