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4 Palestinians Die in Clashes

January 31, 2003|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israeli undercover troops killed two Palestinians, including a militia leader, after a car chase Thursday through the West Bank town of Tulkarm, and army bulldozers flattened more than 100 Palestinian market stalls in the city of Hebron.

Early today, two more West Bank Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the town of Jenin.

The highly visible military operations in the West Bank followed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's sweeping victory in elections Tuesday, which was interpreted as voter endorsement of his policy of cracking down on the Palestinians after more than two years of violence.

Final election tabulations, including soldiers' votes, gave one more parliamentary seat each to two hard-line factions -- Sharon's Likud Party and the National Religious Party -- at the expense of the centrist Am Ehad and Arab-Jewish Hadash factions, the election commission said Thursday.

The totals give conservative parties a clear majority of 69 in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament.

Though Likud is by far the largest party in the Knesset, Sharon still must form a coalition to win a majority in the house.

In military operations Thursday, undercover Israeli soldiers, disguised as Palestinians, chased a car containing four members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade militia across Tulkarm.

The car stopped in the center of town, Palestinians said, and the four ran toward a candy store.

The soldiers followed them and opened fire, killing Fayez Jaber, 32, the local leader of the militia, which is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

A Palestinian working in the store was also killed. The Israeli military confirmed that only one man was armed. Ten people were arrested.

The Al Aqsa militia has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks against Israelis.

In today's shootings, Israeli military sources said, soldiers entered Jenin to arrest a Hamas activist. They said the activist and another Palestinian were killed when the soldiers came under fire.

In Hebron, soldiers bulldozed about 100 stalls in the vegetable market, the largest operation in the divided city for months.

The makeshift market was set up in an empty field several years ago after Israel closed the market in the Old City because it was next to an enclave of Jewish settlers.

Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved in and leveled the stalls as soldiers fired machine guns to keep Palestinians away.

As an Israeli tank rolled in front of a three-story building, Palestinian youths threw heavy objects at it, including several toilets that smashed into pieces as they crashed off the tank's turret.

No casualties were reported.

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