4 Palestinians shot to death in clashes with Israeli army

Fresh violence deals blow to Egypt's cease-fire bid

January 04, 2004|By Megan K. Stack | Megan K. Stack,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM - On the bloodiest day in two weeks of Israeli raids and military curfews in the seething West Bank city of Nablus, four Palestinians were shot to death after clashes erupted yesterday between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.

Mohammed Masri, 17, was shot in the head during the funeral for his 15-year-old cousin, who had been killed earlier in the day, Palestinian witnesses said. They said Masri was marching in the funeral procession when he was shot by an Israeli gunman.

The Israeli army gave a different version of events: Soldiers were standing near the procession, it said, when two Palestinian men approached, one clutching a Molotov cocktail and the other carrying a pistol. The Israeli soldiers opened fire and "identified a hit," an army spokesman said.

The new spasms of violence strike a blow to Egypt's attempts to coax Palestinian militants to agree to a new cease-fire in the intifada against Israel.

Nablus has spent most of the past 12 days under curfew while Israeli soldiers have carried out raids and arrests. Armed militant cells in Nablus were plotting attacks inside Israel and against Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Israeli sources said.

Yesterday afternoon, Palestinians hurled stones and a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers, and heaved bricks and rocks from rooftops, Israeli soldiers said.

The Israeli army spokesman, who is not allowed to give his name, said Israeli soldiers opened fire only three times during the encounter, which lasted about an hour and a half.

Ajmed Masri was heaving stones at the soldiers from a nearby roof when he was shot in the chest, Palestinian witnesses said. Another Palestinian, 26-year-old Amir Arafat, was shot in the back, Palestinians said, and Rawhi Shuman, 19, was shot in the chest.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Special correspondent Maher Abukhater in Ramallah contributed to this report.

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