Killing of Israeli officer by informer gets 'ceasefire' off to a bloody start

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The first day of the Middle East ceasefire dawned in blood yesterday. A Palestinian shot dead an Israeli intelligence officer on the Bethlehem bypass south of Jerusalem. The officer's bodyguard, himself wounded, shot back and killed the assailant.

The first day of the Middle East ceasefire dawned in blood yesterday. A Palestinian shot dead an Israeli intelligence officer on the Bethlehem bypass south of Jerusalem. The officer's bodyguard, himself wounded, shot back and killed the assailant.

An army spokesman identified the dead officer as Lieutenant-Colonel Yehuda Edri, 45. He was shot at close range during a prearranged meeting with an informer. The Palestinian, who acted alone, was Hassan Abu Shaireh, 30, who had three children and lived in a Bethlehem refugee camp. A senior Palestinian official said he had served two years in a Palestinian prison for collaborating with Israel.

Major-General Giora Eiland, the Israeli officer co-ordinating the truce with the Palestinians and the Americans, said last night that the colonel's killing would not stop Israel persevering with the ceasefire. Another tripartite security meeting is set for this afternoon.

Earlier yesterday, one Palestinian was shot dead and three wounded in a drive-by shooting on the West Bank. An unknown Jewish group claimed responsibility, saying it was to avenge the killing of Israelis. The army said it was investigating the claim, as well as the possibility that the shooting was the work of Palestinians who mistook their victims for Jewish settlers.

Despite the shaky start, Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, assured European ambassadors yesterday that his forces would continue to hold fire and to withdraw under the deal brokered on Wednesday by the director of America's Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet.

Mr Sharon's spokesman, Ra'anan Gissin, told The Independent: "In places where there is continued shooting, we shall not redeploy. We shall stay to protect our civilians and soldiers. In other places, we shall fulfil our commitments in the spirit and letter of the Tenet plan. We are still waiting to see if Yasser Arafat passes the test of the ceasefire."

Despite sporadic exchanges of fire in the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks began pulling back yesterday. Restrictions were eased on the flow of Palestinian traffic, and workers were allowed back to their jobs in jointly operated industrial zones.

General Eiland reported 17 Palestinian attacks during the first 24 hours of the ceasefire, including four mortar shellings in the Gaza Strip.

Comments