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Israeli Soldier Killed in Gaza Shootout

Mideast: Arab gunman dies in attack on Jewish settlement, military says. Palestinian leaders urge army not to retaliate.

November 19, 2000|SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — A security officer who belonged to a militia group disbanded by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sneaked through Jewish settlement land in the Gaza Strip early Saturday and shot three soldiers, killing one and wounding the others before being felled by return fire, the Israeli military said.

Palestinian leaders quickly urged Israel not to retaliate but to let them investigate the dawn attack in Kfar Darom, one of the more brazen during the seven-week intifada. Retaliation would "only have negative effects and deteriorate the situation," they said in a statement.

But according to Israel Radio, Maj. Gen. Yom-Tov Samia, southern region commander, vowed that the army would retaliate against Palestinian commanders who send men to carry out attacks.

The shootings came less than 24 hours after Arafat publicly called for an end to attacks from Palestinian-held areas, raising questions about whether the leader's influence is waning or whether the announcement was merely an attempt to curb Israeli assaults on regions under his control.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday November 20, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Mideast--In a story Sunday about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the name of an Israeli soldier killed by a Palestinian security officer was transposed. His name is Staff Sgt. Baruch Flum.

A Fatah leader, who asked not to be identified, said the security officer did not violate Arafat's order because the shooting occurred in an Israeli-held area. The leader added that Fatah did not order the assault.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly insisted that Arafat, who is president of the Palestinian Authority, make a clear statement to his people to stop all of their attacks.

The 30-year-old gunman in Saturday's shooting was a member of the Fatah Hawks, an armed faction of Arafat's movement that was disbanded by the Palestinian leader several years after he signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel. The attack was the first by a known Hawks member during the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which began Sept. 28.

Identified by the Palestinians as Baha-Addin abu Said, the security officer received a martyr's burial Saturday afternoon at Maghazi refugee camp near the settlement.

Said approached the Jewish settlement and stole through its greenhouses, getting within 10 feet of the soldiers before opening fire with an automatic rifle, the Israeli military said.

Staff Sgt. Flum Baruch, 21, of Tel Aviv was killed. Another soldier was in critical condition with a head wound and a third was moderately injured, the army said.

Fatah sources said Said wore an Israeli uniform and spoke Hebrew to the men, who were guarding the greenhouses about a mile from the settlement, but the Israeli military could not confirm that.

Israeli soldiers protect about 6,500 Jewish settlers living in heavily guarded enclaves in the Gaza Strip among more than 1 million Palestinians.

Hours after the shooting, four Palestinians belonging to Force 17, Arafat's bodyguard unit, were injured in an explosion at a post in Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza. Palestinian officials claimed that the blast was caused by a helicopter gunship firing rockets, but the Israeli military denied carrying out any such assault.

In other violence Saturday, stone-throwers and Israeli forces clashed in the West Bank towns of Hebron and Ramallah, and in the Gaza Strip, but no fatalities were reported. More than 230 people have been killed in the seven-week conflict, nearly 90% of them Palestinian.

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