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Palestinian man, Israeli soldier killed in shootout


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West Bank

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A Palestinian man and an Israeli soldier were killed early Monday in a shootout during an Israeli military operation near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF spokeswoman said the Israeli army was conducting an operation in a village north of Tulkarem -- a village still under Israeli security control -- to arrest a wanted Palestinian militant.

The Israeli forces were fired on, the spokeswoman said, and one Palestinian and one Israeli soldier were killed in the resulting exchange of gunfire. One other Israeli soldier was wounded, she added.

Israeli security sources identified the Palestinian killed as Shafik Adel Mustafa Aani, 38, a senior Islamic Jihad militant who was involved in organizing a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis at a nightclub in Tel Aviv Feb. 25. At least 49 Israelis were wounded in the attack.

The sources said Palestinian security forces arrested Aani after the suicide attack, but he escaped a week and a half ago.

The presence of the Israeli military near the West Bank city is likely to cause some concern, as Tulkarem was one of three cities returned to Palestinian control beginning in March.

The IDF spokeswoman said the site of the operation was a village still under Israeli security control.

On Feb. 8, Israel pledged to gradually cede control of all five major Palestinian population centers during peace talks in Egypt.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat on Monday called on the Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- to intervene directly to preserve the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.

CNN Producer Shira Medding contributed to this report.


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