/ 1 January 2002

Bloody Sunday in the West Bank

Israeli troops killed five Palestinians in the West Bank early on Sunday, four shot dead near a Hebron settlement and one a local military leader slain in the north, a day after five others died in a messy ”targeted killing.”

The four killed near Hebron in the southern West Bank were armed and attempting to break into the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba from the neighbouring Palestinian village of Bani Naim, the Israeli army said.

But Palestinian witnesses insisted the four were simply workers from the village of Shuyukh who were returning late from their jobs at a nearby quarry.

An army representative said that Israeli soldiers ”set up an ambush for four Palestinians after tip-offs that there was to be an attempt to infiltrate Kiryat Arba.

”The four Palestinians were killed. Sabotage materiel was found on their bodies,” he said.

The four men, all in their twenties, were identified as Alaa Ayaidi, two brothers, Hossam and Hisham Khalaika, and their cousin Atia Khalaika, their families said.

Israeli public radio reported earlier that the soldiers had opened fire on suspect shadows and that a bag containing metal-cutters had been found near the bodies of the victims.

In the northern West Bank, a Palestinian militant was shot dead during an intense firefight in the refugee camp of Jenin, the scene of increasing clashes in the past week, a Palestinian security source said.

Abdel Karim Bassam Sadi (18) son of the local chief of the Al-Quds Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the radical group Islamic Jihad, was shot in the chest.

Troops backed by dozens of tanks and other armour entered the camp at dawn on Sunday, witnesses said.

The killings came a day after an Israeli helicopter blew up a car near Jenin carrying a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah movement, who was also a member of the Palestinian military intelligence service.

Four other people, including two children, were killed in the missile strike against Rafaat Daraghmeh (26).

The bodies of two 15-year-old boys were found badly charred inside the vehicle which was hit near Tubas village, some 20 kilometres southeast of Jenin.

Two children — Bahira Daraghmeh, six, and Osama Daraghmeh (10) — were also killed by another missile which missed the car, Palestinian medical sources said.

It was not clear if they were close relatives of Rafaat since the Daraghmeh family is one of the largest in the area.

Another 10 bystanders were also wounded in the explosions, which left the vehicle a burned out shell.

The Israeli army called the attack part of ”the struggle against the infrastructure of terrorism” but acknowledged it had killed innocents.

The army has carried out hits on dozens of wanted militants since the uprising erupted, but the practice has been internationally condemned.

Also on Saturday, a 20-year-old Palestinian gunman snuck into Har Brakha settlement, near Nablus, and wounded two Israelis near a Talmud school before soldiers shot him dead.

The two wounded, a man and woman from the Jerusalem area, had been invited to the weekly Jewish meal of Shabbat, settler officials told public radio.

The attack was claimed in an anonymous phone call to AFP by the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The caller identified the gunman as Yussef Atalla from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. – Sapa-AFP