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Arab Driver Killed After Hitting 2 Israeli Soldiers

February 19, 1987|DAN FISHER | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — An Arab taxi driver was killed after running down and seriously injuring two Israeli soldiers near Nablus on Wednesday as a spate of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip continued for the 10th straight day.

An army spokesman said that other soldiers opened fire on the fleeing taxi driver after he had struck their two comrades but added that it was unclear whether the man died from a bullet wound or from injuries sustained when his car crashed into a stone wall.

The spokesman acknowledged that a Palestinian passer-by was injured by a ricochet from the gunfire.

The Palestine Press Service, an Arab news agency that monitors events in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said the driver was killed by Israeli gunfire and his car was riddled with bullets. The press service also said three other Palestinians were wounded by the Israeli gunfire.

Wednesday's was the first death from the latest round of West Bank and Gaza Strip violence, although at least 20 Palestinians have been wounded by army gunfire since Feb. 10. A dozen Israeli soldiers and civilians have been reported injured by stones thrown by Arab demonstrators or from broken glass.

Four Palestinian youths were shot to death during a similar wave of unrest last December.

Israeli and Arab sources agree that among the factors behind the latest unrest is the continuing "camps war" in Lebanon, in which Palestinian refugees, their camps cut off by Lebanese militias, have been reported starving.

"They were trying to express their rage with the events going on in Lebanon," said Albert Aghzarian, spokesman for Birzeit University near Ramallah, which has been the site of clashes in recent days and where two students were shot to death by Israeli troops last Dec. 4.

React to Camp Reports

"When students hear that their compatriots (in Lebanon) are asking for (religious) rulings (to allow them) to eat human corpses . . . it's obviously something which they react to," Aghzarian said.

The spokesman added that students and others are also protesting tougher Israeli security measures in the occupied territories--what the Palestinians call the army's "iron fist" policy.

The unrest is centered at Palestinian universities and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with soldiers using tear gas, rubber bullets and frequently live ammunition to disperse protesters.

The five largest universities in the occupied territories were all closed Wednesday--four under military order and one, in Hebron, by a university administration trying to head off more trouble.

The latest round of violence began at An Najah University in Nablus on Feb. 11, when seven students were wounded by soldiers. Two residents of the nearby Balata refugee camp were wounded by bullets and two by rubber bullets in disturbances the same day.

Wednesday's fatal incident took place outside the Askar Palestinian refugee camp near Nablus. According to the army spokesman, the taxi driver swerved to run down two members of a six-man Israeli army patrol walking along the shoulder off the road.

The unit's commander, who was interviewed by Israel army radio, gave this account:

"All of a sudden I heard a shout, or a scream, and I turned back. I saw that one of my men had been hit. . . . Another one was on the car. He was being half-dragged by the car. He fell off. The car tried to run over another one of the soldiers. . . . Three of us, including myself, opened fire. The car hit a wall. The driver got out, walked a couple of meters, and fell in the middle of the road and died.

Palestinian sources identified the dead man as Samih Ibrahim Kharousheh, 34.

The army spokesman said that the condition of one of the injured soldiers was critical and the other serious.

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