Israeli soldiers shoot dead Fatah 'gunman'

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The Independent Online

Undercover Israeli soldiers shot dead a member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction yesterday in what Palestinians called an assassination, fuelling tension already stoked by Israeli troop movements.

Imad Abu Sneineh was shot in the head, chest, stomach and legs by 10 bullets fired from a truck with Palestinian number plates outside his home in the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli security sources said Abu Sneineh was a prominent gunman who had been behind attacks on Jewish settlers.

Tensions remained high in the West Bank after reports that Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles had taken up positions on Tuesday night close to Bethlehem and Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli Defence Minister, said he had cancelled a raid on Beit Jala after receiving intelligence reports that Mr Arafat was calling for calm.

But the threat of intervention still hung over Beit Jala, from where gunmen have been shooting across a valley at the Jewish settlement of Gilo. Mr Ben-Eliezer reiterated threats by Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, to crack down on Beit Jala if the shooting continued. "This is not a joke. The moment they cross the line and there is shooting at Gilo we will not sit quietly ... There is a limit to what a country can take," he said.

Shops and offices in Hebron shut after the killing of Abu Sneineh. The 27-year-old Palestinian was to be buried late yesterday. Funerals have often fuelled passions and fed a cycle of violence in which about 680 people, including more than 500 Palestinians and some 150 Israelis, have been killed in the past 10 months.(Reuters)