Posted by: noticeable | November 27, 2006

As truce in Gaza Strip holds, IDF kills two in West Bank firefight

As Truce in Gaza Strip Holds, IDF Kills Two in West Bank Firefight

By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

As a fragile cease-fire appeared to hold in Gaza, Israeli troops in the West Bank shot dead at least one member of a militant group with ties to Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees early Monday, raising concerns that there could be a violent response from the strip. The truce between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza took hold on Sunday. Some militant factions have warned that they will respond with attacks to all casualties caused by the IDF in the West Bank, and that the truce will collapse unless Israel also halts military operations in the whole of the territories.

The army said troops operating early Monday in the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya shot two armed Palestinians. Palestinian sources identified the two killed as 22-year-old Abdel Razek Bahar, a central militant within the Popular Resistance Committees, and 55-year-old Fatma Nezal.

An army spokesman said that Israeli forces patrolling Qabatiya, near the city of Jenin, had come under fire several times by Palestinian militants. The troops said they had hit two Palestinians in one exchange, he said. An official from the local Salah A-Din Committees group said that one of the dead was a local militant leader, while the other was a woman passer-by. “We shall give an answer to this, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,” the official, Yasser Mazal, said.

Palestinian security sources said it was unclear if the dead woman had been armed. The IDF also said it arrested a total of 15 alleged militants in overnight operations throughout the West Bank.

Shots were fired at IDF soldiers operating in Nablus, but no casualties were reported.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he hoped the truce could apply to the West Bank. Palestinian militant groups have demanded Israel halt attacks in all Palestinian territories.

In army circles, and particularly at IDF Southern Command, there is a great deal of skepticism about the agreement. Senior officers have warned that without enforcement and an end to the smuggling of weapons through tunnels from Sinai to Rafah, the cease-fire is a dangerous development.

The officers maintain that Hamas is making enormous efforts to arm itself. They add that when the organization thinks it is ready, its members will resume the violence and then its military capabilities will pose a greater threat to IDF troops.

Senior security sources in Israel pointed out Sunday that leaders in militant groups spoke of a cease-fire only in terms of the Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, and did not commit themselves to stopping other forms of attacks in other parts of the territories.

PA forces deploy 13,000 in Gaza
Palestinian Authority security forces began deploying along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Sunday, in order to prevent Palestinian militants from firing Qassam rockets at Israel in violation of the cease-fire.

The IDF said all troops were withdrawn from Gaza in the hours before the ceasefire began. Streets in northern Gaza were empty immediately after the truce took hold.

Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza officially began the cease-fire at 6 A.M., Sunday, following an agreement reached between Abbas and the Palestinian factions. Abbas called Olmert on Saturday to inform him of the deal.

Three Qassam rockets hit Israel in the first few hours after a truce between Israel and Palestinian militant factions in the Gaza Strip went into effect, causing no damage or injuries. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

The Islamic Jihad and Hamas military wings said the rocket fire was in response to the arrest of two Hamas operatives in Hebron, despite earlier pledges not to violate the truce in response to West Bank incidents and despite the fact that the arrests took place prior to 6 A.M.

One of the rockets hit Sderot, another fell in an open area north of the western Negev town, and the third landed close to a local kibbutz.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said all major militant factions in the Gaza Strip had reaffirmed their commitment to the truce, Reuters reported.

“Contacts were made with the political leaderships of the factions and there is a reaffirmation of the commitment of what has been agreed to,” Haniyeh said.

Palestinian lawmaker Saeb Erekat, an Abbas confidant, condemned the rocket attacks. “This is a violation and [Abbas] calls it a violation, and urges all to abide by the agreement that should be honored for the interest of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Despite the claims of responsibility for the rockets, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Ghazi Hamad, said all the armed groups had committed to the agreement, and any violations were rogue acts.

“There is a 100 percent effort to make this work, but there is no guarantee of 100 percent results,” Hamad said.

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