Israeli troops kill four Palestinians in what is called mistaken shooting incident in Jenin

Friday, June 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) _ Israeli tanks opened fire Friday on the market in the northern West Bank town of Jenin, killing four Palestinians, including three children, hospital officials said. The Israeli army said soldiers had mistakenly fired on a group of curfew violators.

Palestinian residents said they believed Israeli forces had lifted the 3-day curfew before the shooting. Witnesses said the market area already was full of shoppers replenishing supplies when the Israelis fired tank shells and machine guns into the crowds.

The army said the curfew had not been lifted. Nevertheless, the Israeli army spokesman's office said an initial inquiry ``indicates that the force erred in its action,'' and that an investigation was continuing.

Several hours earlier, two Palestinian gunmen seized a house in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Itamar, killing a woman and her three sons before soldiers stormed the house and killed one of the attackers.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his Security Cabinet of senior ministers on Friday to discuss how to proceed after four days of Palestinian suicide bombings, settlement infiltrations, Israeli military retaliation and other violence that has left 33 Israelis and 12 Palestinians dead.

In a major policy shift earlier this week, Israel decided its troops would gradually reoccupy Palestinian territory until terror stops.

In line with the new policy, about 50 Israeli tanks entered Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, after the Thursday night attack in nearby Itamar.

Israeli forces earlier had gone into into Jenin and imposed a curfew after 19 Israelis were killed Tuesday in the deadliest suicide bombing in Jerusalem in six years.

Palestinian security and hospital officials said Israelis fired tank shells and machine-guns at residents in two Jenin streets in the town's market area and a nearby neighborhood, killing four people and wounding 24, including many children.

In the Jenin shooting Friday, the army said soldiers searching homes in the city spotted a group of Palestinians who had broken the curfew and were heading toward the soldiers. The troops fired two tank shells to deter the crowd from approaching, the army said.

Mohammed Abu Ghali, director of Jenin Governmental Hospital, said brothers Ahmed Ghazawi, about 6, and Jamil, 12 both died along with a 6-year-old girl, Sajedah Famahwi. Also killed was Helal Shetta, a school teacher who was about 50.

The Ghazawi brothers were killed by tank shells; Sajedah and Shetta died from gunfire, hospital officials said.

Also in Jenin, Palestinians security officials said a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was killed and seven other people were wounded when Israeli troops blew up an empty building early Friday. The blast caused a nearby building to collapse, the security officials said.

The Israeli army said its forces had blown up a bomb factory found in the town during the night.

In the Thursday night attack on the Itamar settlement, Palestinians armed with grenades and assault rifles entered the house of the Shabo family.

The attackers killed Rachel Shabo, 40, and her sons Neria, 16, Zvi, 12, and Avishai, 5. The settlement's security chief, who rushed to the scene, also was killed. Eight people in the house were wounded, including Shabo's 11-year-old son.

Israeli commandos stormed the house, killing one infiltrator. In the exchange of fire, the two-story house went up in flames. Soldiers conducted searches after witnesses said a second attacker jumped out a window and escaped.

In a phone call to The Associated Press, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility. In October, the small, radical PLO faction assassinated an Israeli Cabinet minister.

``This is a horrendous attack, and there always has to be a response for such things,'' said Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin.

Public Security Minister Uzi Landau said Israel must hit hard at the Palestinians ``to topple the Palestinian Authority and to kick (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat and his close associates out of this region.''

But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned that would be a mistake. ``There won't be anyone to talk to, anyone to turn to,'' he said, noting that Israeli security professionals oppose expelling Arafat. Peres and Landau were interviewed Friday on Israel Radio.

At the industrial park near Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza early Friday, a Palestinian threw a grenade at Israeli soldiers, who fired back, killing the attacker and two Palestinian workers, the military and Israel Radio said.

Also a 10-year-old boy was killed when Israeli troops opened fire at a group of Palestinian children and an Associated Press reporter and photographer on a Gaza road as soldiers tore down a Palestinian police post.

Israeli military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said soldiers were ordered to destroy a police post that was used for firing anti-tank shells at an Israeli outpost, and soldiers fired at suspicious targets. The sources said the reporters were not a target.

On Thursday, the Israeli army began calling up reserves for what TV reports said would be a military campaign to be called ``Determined Path.'' The scope of the operation was not clear.

In late March, Israel launched operation ``Defensive Shield,'' the largest-scale offensive in 20 years, in which troops took over most West Bank towns for several weeks. That offensive was aimed at Palestinian militias but failed to crush them.