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Israel says it regrets killing of Palestinian judge from Jordan

By Kareem Khadder and Saad Abedine, CNN
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Tue March 11, 2014
A protest in front of the Israeli embassy to demand the deportation of the Israeli ambassador, on March 10, 2014, in Amman.
A protest in front of the Israeli embassy to demand the deportation of the Israeli ambassador, on March 10, 2014, in Amman.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israeli soldiers shoot and kill a Palestinian judge from Jordan at a border crossing
  • Palestinian Authority condemns what it calls the shooting "at close range" by Israeli troops
  • Israel promises Jordan a joint investigation of the judge's death
  • In southern Gaza, an Israeli Skylark drone crashed after a malfunction, Israel says

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel expressed regret Tuesday over the killing of a Palestinian judge from Jordan, who was shot by Israeli soldiers at a border crossing, and promised Amman that it would carry out a joint investigation into his death.

The Israeli military had denounced Judge Raed Zeiter as a "terrorist," saying he was shot dead Monday after he attacked soldiers at the Allenby Bridge crossing, also known as the King Hussein Bridge, while making his way to the West Bank.

In a more conciliatory tone, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office issued a statement saying it was committed to its 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and would establish an Israeli-Jordanian team to look into what happened.

"Israel regrets the death of Judge Raed Zeiter yesterday at the King Hussein (Allenby) bridge and expresses its sympathies to the people and government of Jordan," the statement said. "The joint team will commence its work promptly."

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The Israeli military said Zeiter had tried to seize a soldier's weapon.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah condemned what it called the shooting "at close range" by Israeli troops. It demanded an investigation, as has Jordan, whose Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh summoned Israel's charge d'affaires in Amman after the incident.

'He arrived to us dead'

Zeiter, 38, was a West Bank-born judge working in Jordan and on a break when he was killed.

He was buried in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday in a funeral attended by Palestinian officials and dignitaries.

"He was coming here to take care of some property, see his house and visit his family. He arrived to us dead," his cousin Nafe'e Zu'aiter told CNN.

"He was assassinated in cold blood; they could have shot him in the leg even though he provoked the soldier. Why three bullets to end his life?"

In a separate incident Monday, Israeli soldiers shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank.

The military said Palestinians had hurled rocks at an Israeli vehicle and bus near Beit Eil, and soldiers at the scene responded with gunfire.

It said military police have opened an investigation. Palestinian medical sources identified the man as Sajee Darwish, a university media student, and said he had been shot in the back of his head. He was also buried in a heavily attended funeral Tuesday.

Both incidents stoked tensions, particularly in Jordan, where the police presence was beefed up near Israeli and American premises.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to travel to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week.

Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the killings were "a dangerous provocation that would lead to the destruction of what is left of the peace process and is pushing the region to a dangerous momentum that cannot be controlled," according to a statement given to the WAFA news agency.

Fallen drone

Separately, an Israeli airstrike killed three Gaza militants Tuesday, medical sources said, near an area where an unmanned Israeli surveillance aircraft crashed earlier in the day.

The Israeli military said that the Skylark drone experienced a technical malfunction and that it was investigating what caused it to go down. It fell over southern Gaza.

Israel uses drones to gather intelligence on militant activity in Gaza, a territory governed by the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas and where other armed groups also operate.

A militant wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a prepared statement that it had recovered the drone.

In a statement about the airstrike, the Israeli military said it was responding to mortar fire toward Israel.

The medical sources said the three dead were members of the Islamic Jihad militant group.

READ: Israel approves permits for new settlements in East Jerusalem

CNN's Michael Schwartz and Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report.

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