ISRAELI troops briefly enter Gaza town in second incursion this week

Saturday, August 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ In the second incursion into Palestinian territory this week, Israeli forces briefly entered a Gaza Strip town early Saturday and killed a Palestinian gunman in an exchange of fire.

At the man's funeral, hundreds of mourners clamored for revenge, chanting: ``More suicide bombings.'' Marchers shot in the air and one masked man brandished a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Israel remains on high alert because of persistent attempts by the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups to carry out suicide bombings. On Friday, Israeli security forces seized a car carrying a 22-pound bomb and arrested the driver and a passenger, two Islamic Jihad activists from the West Bank, police said.

In the West Bank, the body of a 32-year-old Palestinian man was found in a large trash container Saturday. The man, Rasmi Issa, had been kidnapped from his home in the village of Al Khader and killed with three bullets to the head, Palestinian security officials said. Issa was suspected of collaborating with Israel, they said.

Since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting more than 10 months ago, more than 30 suspected informers have been killed by Palestinian vigilantes. Two alleged collaborators have been executed by the Palestinian Authority, six are on death row and about 100 are awaiting trial.

The Gaza raid began shortly after midnight, on the outskirts of the town of Khan Yunis. The Israeli army said in a statement that troops spotted five armed Palestinians, opened fire and ``noted a number of hits.''

Palestinians fired at the troops, Palestinian officials said.

Palestinian hospital officials said 29-year-old Abdo Abu Bakra, an activist in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, was killed in the exchange of fire. Ten Palestinians were wounded, including three seriously.

In the raid, Israeli tanks, bulldozers and armored personnel carriers moved about 150 yards into Palestinian territory, Palestinian security sources said. The army denied tanks were used.

Israeli forces have repeatedly ventured into Palestinian areas in pursuit of militants or to tear down houses and buildings used for cover by Palestinian gunmen.

The Israeli incursions have drawn international criticism, and as with previous operations, the Israelis retreated shortly after entering the Palestinian area.

Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman, said such raids would continue as long as Israel was being attacked by militants.

Pazner also said Israel remained on high alert over suicide bombings.

``We have a great amount of warnings, very hot warnings, that they (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) are preparing terror attacks on Israel,'' said Pazner.

Pazner would not say how specific the warnings were, but said they led Israeli troops to tighten their blockade of several West Bank towns, including Ramallah.

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, who met Friday with U.S. Mideast envoy David Satterfield, complained that Israel was sending conflicting messages.

``We hear (Israeli Foreign Minister) Shimon Peres speaking of a dialogue and we welcome that and then we see tanks in Khan Younis in the night and one dead. We cannot continue with this double language,'' Erekat said Saturday.