3 Fatah activists killed in Israeli raid

Saturday, December 26, 2009

NABLUS, West Bank – Israeli soldiers on Saturday shot dead three Palestinians who the military says were involved in a roadside ambush that killed an Israeli settler earlier in the week.

The operation in the West Bank city of Nablus targeted three activists of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. Palestinian witnesses said troops, many of them masked, opened fire while storming the homes of the men.

The West Bank has been relatively calm in recent months. Roadside ambushes and army raids targeting Fatah gunmen, common just a few years ago, are now rare.

This week's sudden spike in violence could undercut the security coordination forged by Abbas and Israel's military as they try to clamp down on a shared foe, the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The three men killed Saturday were identified as members of Fatah's violent Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a group that carried out many shootings during the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000. The deputy governor of Nablus, Anan Attireh, said one of the men — Anan Subeh — had been accepted in Israel's amnesty program for Fatah gunmen, while two others, Ghassan Abu Sharah and Raed Suragji, were still on Israel's wanted list.

Most Fatah gunmen are dead, in prison or retired, but those who remain active threatened revenge. "We will not stand idly by while our fighters are slaughtered," said a group spokesman who identified himself as Abu Mahmoud.

The army said in a statement that the three men were responsible for the fatal shooting Thursday of an Israeli man as he drove in the West Bank.

Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, a senior Israeli army commander in the West Bank, said Israel would act with determination against those who harm Israeli citizens.

In the raid Saturday, Israeli troops backed by sniffer dogs and dozens of military vehicles entered Nablus' casbah, or old city, before dawn.

An AP photographer arriving at Subeh's house near daybreak saw dozens of jeeps, several bulldozers and masked soldiers in the area. Explosions could be heard from inside the house. Suboh's body, hit by bullets and shrapnel, lay in a narrow space between two buildings. When the forces withdrew, several young Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.

The military said Subeh had exchanged fire with troops, and that two M16 assault rifles and two pistols were found in his possession.

A Palestinian doctor, Ghassan Hamad, said he inspected the bodies and that all three had been shot from close range.

Later Saturday, thousands joined the funeral procession as the three bodies were carried through downtown Nablus.

"Why the coordination while we are under the bullets of the army?" chanted the angry crowd, referring to the ties between Abbas' security forces and the Israeli military.

Meanwhile, three Palestinians close to Israel's northern border with Gaza were killed by Israeli forces Saturday.

The army said the three were hit in an Israeli air strike after they ignored warning shots while approaching an Israeli passenger crossing. Palestinian health official Moawiya Hassanain said the three young men appeared to be from a nearby village.

Israel does not allow Palestinians to approach its border area with Gaza, fearing militants will use the area to stage attacks. However, farmers and Palestinians searching for scrap metal also frequent the area.


Additional reporting by Diaa Hadid in Gaza City.



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