Israeli soldiers kill 6 in West Bank, Gaza

Dead include boy, 11, shot near a kibbutz while catching birds

November 08, 2003|By Henry Chu | Henry Chu,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM - Israeli soldiers on the lookout for Palestinian militants killed at least six people yesterday - among them an 11-year-old boy - in outbreaks of violence across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli and Palestinian sources said.

Four were killed in three incidents in Gaza that occurred within hours of each other yesterday morning.

Palestinian witnesses said that Mahmoud Kayed, 11, and one or two friends were trapping birds near a fence bordering an Israeli kibbutz when Israeli troops saw them and opened fire. An exploding shell sent shrapnel into the boy's chest, hospital officials said. A companion was injured.

Palestinian sources said the friends were using nets and string to catch birds, a popular pastime among Gazan youth. For its part, the Israeli military said that its soldiers had noticed three "suspicious figures" carrying what appeared to be electrical wire of the sort used for planting bombs.

Because the area is off-limits to Palestinians and prone to attacks by militants - 15 in the past month - Israeli forces were obliged to shoot, regardless of the age of the targets, an army spokesman said. He said Palestinian youths had taken part in previous attacks.

The spokesman said no explosive devices were found.

Before dawn, Israeli troops killed two men who were apparently trying to plant a roadside bomb near the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Younis, Israeli and Palestinian sources said. The militant group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade said the two men, both in their 20s, were their operatives and belonged to the same family. Eight people were injured in the shootout, Gaza hospital officials said.

And in an incident not long afterward, a member of the Islamic radical group Hamas was killed in a firefight as Israeli troops rumbled through another Gaza neighborhood, Palestinian sources said. Hospital officials said the victim was then crushed beyond recognition by an Israeli armored vehicle.

In the northern West Bank city of Jenin, a hotbed of militant activity, Israeli forces arrested a man suspected of plotting a suicide bombing in a northern Israeli restaurant last month that killed more than 20 people. Israeli sources said Amjad Ahmed Abeidi, 35, was planning more attacks, including a suicide bombing to take place aboard a Jerusalem bus.

As the soldiers pulled out, backed by helicopters, Palestinian militants reportedly opened fire, triggering a confrontation in which a 20-year-old suspected member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was fatally shot. Two youths, ages 13 and 15, were wounded.

In Nablus, Israeli gunfire killed a 23-year-old Palestinian man in the Balata refugee camp, witnesses said. The army said soldiers on patrol returned fire at someone who hurled three explosive devices at them.

The bloodshed came as U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell sent a letter praising the efforts of the authors of an alternative Mideast peace plan to the so-called road map backed by the White House.

Powell wrote the leaders of the Geneva plan, former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo, that "projects such as yours are important for sustaining hope and understanding."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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