Israelis kill militant behind Tel Aviv blast

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The Independent Online

Israeli paratroopers have killed a wanted Islamic Jihad militant who the Army say was a key figure behind the Tel Aviv suicide bombing which killed five Israelis two weeks ago.

Israeli paratroopers have killed a wanted Islamic Jihad militant who the Army say was a key figure behind the Tel Aviv suicide bombing which killed five Israelis two weeks ago.

The militant's death, which followed Israeli attempts to take the man alive yesterday, underlined the continuing strains on efforts to entrench the ceasefire since the bombing. It came the day after talks on the handover of Jericho to Palestinian security forces again ended without agreement.

But a meeting between Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and the Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, appeared to make progress, including on Egyptian security co-operation on its border with Gaza after Israel pulls out in the summer. Mr Mofaz said after the talks in Sharm el-Sheikh that Israel stood by the agreements of last month's summit in the Red Sea resort but progress depended on the Palestinians. He added: "I believe that we are [moving] in the right direction but we want to see results against the terror activities that are coming from the territories."

In a pre-dawn raid on a village near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, a paratroop unit surrounded a building in which the man, Mohammed abu-Hazneh, 28, was holed up. Loudspeakers were used to order members of his family to leave the building, which they did. The army said that, when the family denied the man was in the building, the unit sent in a dog which the militant shot after it found him in the attic, and that he then fired on them. The army said it was not clear if he died when the troops returned fire - including with grenades - or because large parts of the building fell when the unit moved in a bulldozer.

Security sources said the man, whose body was found in the ruins, along with a pistol, had also been in a militant cell which had built a car bomb that troops defused last week and had been planning more attacks.

Under the agreement provisionally formalised at Sharm el-Sheikh between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, the army has agreed not to target militants unless they are planning an imminent attack - but warned that they would pursue militants if Palestinian security sources failed to do so.

The raid was criticised by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President: "Quietness is required from us," he said. "It is also required from the Israelis and the Israelis must not carry out these actions."

At yesterday's meeting with Mr Mofaz, President Mubarak urged Israel to hand security control over Jericho, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, Ramallah and Bethlehem to the Palestinians. Mr Mofaz said: "We agreed that Jericho and Tulkarem will be transferred to the security responsibility of the Palestinians and I believe this will happen in the coming weeks and days."

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