Israeli troops kill 3 teen attackers

Palestinian boys in Gaza continue trend of suicide missions against settlers

January 03, 2003|By Laura King | Laura King,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JERUSALEM - Two 15-year-old Palestinian cousins and their 16-year-old friend had a dream, their families said - to die for the Palestinian cause. Yesterday, the boys were buried in the Gaza Strip, hours after being shot dead by Israeli troops as they made what apparently was an inept attempt to infiltrate a Jewish settlement.

None of the Palestinian militant groups operating in Gaza claimed a connection with the failed attack, suggesting the youths acted on their own.

Several times in recent months, teen-age boys in Gaza have staged what amount to self-appointed suicide missions, acting independently to try to kill settlers or soldiers.

In contrast to well-armed Palestinian gunmen who have carried out a string of carefully planned attacks on Jewish settlers, the three boys were armed with a single knife and a pair of wire cutters, the army said.

"Thank God, he got what he always wanted - martyrdom," Atteyeh Dawais, father of Mohammed Dawais, one of the killed youths, told reporters in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp.

The Israeli military defended the shooting of the three as permissible under rules of engagement that allow soldiers to fire on any Palestinian who ventures into exclusionary zones around the Gaza settlements, regardless of whether a specific threat can be ascertained.

Elsewhere, incidents of violence claimed at least three other lives.

In northern Israel, a Palestinian crossed from the West Bank into the village of Maor and entered a house, firing two shots from his assault rifle before it jammed. The couple inside escaped after the homeowner, Ronald Maori, struggled with the gunman. The gunman remained holed up in the house for more than two hours before police shot and killed him.

Near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Bekaot in the Jordan Valley, Israeli police yesterday recovered the body of a 70-year-old Israeli man, Massoud Malouf Elon, who had disappeared the evening before. A Palestinian militia, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, claimed responsibility for his abduction and killing.

Elon's son, Yaakov, told Israel radio that his father regularly went to the small West Bank Palestinian village of Tubas to hand out secondhand clothes to village children.

In another incident, a Palestinian man died in an explosion in a village outside the West Bank town of Ramallah. Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the blast appeared to have been a "work accident" - the term Israelis and Palestinians use to describe a premature explosion when a bomb is being made or transported.

Amid the new violence, Israel pushed ahead with a campaign of arrests of militant leaders in commando-style raids, coupled with large-scale military incursions into Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Overnight, troops backed by helicopter gunships pushed their way into three refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, but they had pulled back by morning.

Daylight raids, however, are increasingly common.

Laura King is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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