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Israeli police kill Palestinian near army base, another dies in blast

Israeli police explosive experts inspect the area hit by a large blast in a shopping center at the  Jewish West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron southwest of Nablus.
Israeli police explosive experts inspect the area hit by a large blast in a shopping center at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron southwest of Nablus.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian in a gun battle Sunday near an army base in northern Israel, and another Palestinian died nearby when a car exploded, a police spokesman said.

Northern Police Commander Yacov Borovsky told Israeli Channel 2 that a car arrived at an army base near the West Bank between Hadera and Afula, and there was an exchange of gunfire in which one of the Palestinians was killed.

Borovsky said police chased the car after it sped away. When officers caught up with it about three miles (five kilometers) from the base, the car exploded and the second Palestinian was killed, Borovsky said.

A witness gave Israel Radio a slightly different version of events.

The witness said a police car pulled over a white Mazda about a mile from the base, and two men in jeans got out of the vehicle. One of the men was shot and killed during a gun battle with police, and the other got back into the car and drove away, according to the witness.

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Police chased the car to the intersection where the base is located, and the vehicle exploded, killing the second man, the witness said.

Two people were taken to a hospital by ambulance, rescue workers said.

Israeli police were searching the area for more possible attackers.

Israel retaliates for suicide attack

Earlier Sunday, Israeli warplanes and helicopters attacked Palestinian positions in the West Bank town of Nablus. Targets included the office of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a government building and Palestinian police headquarters.

The Israeli raid was in retaliation for the first Palestinian suicide bombing in a West Bank Jewish settlement. A Palestinian bomber struck a pizzeria Saturday in Karnei Shomron, southwest of Nablus, killing two Israelis and wounding 26.

"Apparently the Palestinians are determined to continue and deteriorate the situation and create havoc while attacking Israeli citizens," Israeli government spokesman Arie Mekel said Sunday.

"Under these circumstances, obviously the government of Israel has a responsibility to fight terror and to do what it can to protect the Israeli citizens and the Israeli army," Mekel said.

Abed El Rahim Maluh, an official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), on Sunday said, "What happened yesterday is a result of the operation, the killing, the aggression, the occupation -- a result of all acts by Israel against the Palestinian people.

"There are limits the people can take," Maluh said. "We are under heavy pressure from the Israelis throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, not to forget the [Israeli] policy of assassination, and what happened yesterday is a result of this."

Palestinian security sources said the suicide bomber in Saturday's attack was a 20-year-old man from the West Bank town of Qalqilya who belonged to the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, a part of the PFLP. The brigades formed after Abu Ali Mustafa, the former leader of the PFLP, was killed in an Israeli missile strike in August.

The PFLP is a Palestinian militant group that has committed numerous international terrorist attacks and has conducted attacks against Israeli or moderate Arab targets, according to the U.S. State Department. It claimed responsibility for the October killing of hard-line Israeli Cabinet member Rechavam Zeevi that triggered a fresh wave of violence in the region.

The group rejects anything less than a total Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem. While the PFLP has been a member of Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization since the late 1960s, its military wing was outlawed by the Palestinian National Security Council following Zeevi's assassination.

Arafat was not in his office Sunday when the Israeli warplanes struck. Israel has virtually banished Arafat to his Ramallah headquarters, not allowing him to travel.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society, quoting eyewitnesses, said Israeli tanks were moving toward Ramallah, but the Israeli army had no immediate comment.

Sharon calls latest violence 'war'

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon characterized the latest exchange of violence as "war."

"We have won all the wars, and we will win this one as well," Sharon said Saturday in a conversation with an Israeli journalist.

Saturday's pizzeria bombing was the biggest in a series of Palestinian attacks and Israeli military actions that have rocked the West Bank and Gaza this weekend.

Also Saturday, two Qassam rockets were launched around Gaza, but no one was hurt.

Izzedine al Qassam, the military wing of Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching a Qassam-2 missile into an Israeli kibbutz near Gaza early Saturday. A Qassam-1 rocket struck an Israeli army facility Saturday night in northern Gaza, damaging the building.

Israel has warned that the Palestinian launching of the homemade Qassam rockets would provoke a major escalation in violence.


• Suicide bombing kills two Israelis
February 16, 2002



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