West Bank clashes test cease-fire

commander of Islamic Jihad killed

Palestinian rocket attack kills three farm workers

June 08, 2005|By Ken Ellingwood | Ken Ellingwood,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM - Israeli troops fatally shot a commander of the militant group Islamic Jihad yesterday during a gunbattle in the West Bank, and three farm workers in a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip were later killed by a Palestinian rocket attack.

The incidents and two other violent deaths yesterday tested a cease-fire announced by the main Palestinian factions in March, but there was no immediate sign that the agreement was in danger. Still, the outbreak marred the period of relative calm and raised fears of reprisals from both sides.

Marwah Kamil, a fugitive leader of Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank, died during a three-hour shootout with Israeli soldiers sent to arrest him. Kamil, who Israel said had planned attacks and recruited fighters, was high on its list of wanted men after escaping from a Palestinian prison last year.

Under an Israeli policy restricting such raids during the cease-fire, top Israeli commanders authorized the operation, the army said.

There were conflicting reports about a second man slain. Palestinian officials said Nasser Zakarneh, 23, was an unarmed police officer. But the Israeli army said both Palestinians opened fire on soldiers. Israeli officials said their records listed Zakarneh as an Islamic Jihad militant.

In Gaza, a Chinese worker and two Palestinian workers were killed and five Palestinian workers were injured when a Kassam rocket struck a greenhouse in Ganei Tal, a Jewish settlement. The attack was among several instances of rocket, mortar and anti-tank missile fire directed against Israeli targets in Gaza yesterday.

The military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad separately declared they had fired rockets and mortars into settlements, claims that apparently included the attack on Ganei Tal.

The militant groups said they were answering the fatal Kabatiya raid and a scuffle a day earlier between Israeli police and Muslim worshipers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's walled Old City. The mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine, is on a site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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