Israeli soldier, Palestinian militant killed

Hamas says it will not renew cease-fire at the end of the year


JERUSALEM -- An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant were killed in separate army raids in the West Bank yesterday, and Hamas warned after the killing of one of its operatives Tuesday that it would not renew a cease-fire due to expire at the end of the year.

More than a week of violence has severely shaken the truce and dimmed hopes for a revival of peace efforts after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September.

Israeli raids and airstrikes have killed 15 Palestinians - militants and civilians - after a Palestinian suicide bombing Oct. 26 that killed five Israelis. The militant Islamic Jihad group said the bombing was revenge for Israel's killing of one of its West Bank commanders.

Yesterday, the first Israeli serviceman was killed in action since the Gaza withdrawal.

The soldier, Staff Sgt. Yonatan Evron, 20, was fatally shot during the arrest of a Hamas militant at a house in the village of Markanear Jenin in the northern West Bank, the army said.

Brig. Gen. Yair Golan, the commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank, said that after the militant was taken into custody, a gunman opened fire at troops surrounding the house, killing the soldier.

In another army raid near Jenin in the town of Kabatiya, soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen, killing Raafat Turkman, 22, from the militant Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The army said troops had shot three gunmen who fired on them.

A few hours later, two mortar rounds fired from the Gaza Strip landed in the southern Israeli farming community of Netiv Haasara, hitting a house and slightly injuring one person. Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility.

In response, Israeli forces fired artillery rounds into the Gaza Strip, targeting open areas used by militants to launch mortar and rocket attacks, the army said.

As the violence continued, a spokesman for Hamas warned that an informal cease-fire by Palestinian factions would not be renewed when it expires at the end of the year.

His comments came after an Israeli airstrike Tuesday that killed two militant leaders from Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

"The enemy is not abiding by any of its commitments," said the spokesman, Mushir al-Masri.

"It remains a one-sided calm, and it was supposed to be reciprocal. As a result, no one should dream another calm is coming."

Palestinian factions agreed to a "period of calm" until the end of the year after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared a truce in February.

Since then violence has dropped sharply, and Hamas has not carried out suicide bombings in Israel, though it has repeatedly fired rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel in what it called retaliation for Israeli violations.

Al-Masri said Hamas would continue to abide by the informal cease-fire but reserved the right to retaliate for Tuesday's airstrike.

Joel Greenberg writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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