Only hours before the Israeli Arab sector's almost blanket boycott of the election for prime minister, an Arab Christian from Galilee was shot by Palestinian terrorists while serving in an IDF unit in southern Gaza.
IDF St.-Sgt. Rujayah Salameh, 23, of the village of Turan, near Nazareth, was shot in the head and killed by Palestinian snipers firing from an overhead building on Monday afternoon. Salameh was riding in an armored personnel carrier (APC) while guarding army engineers at the Turmit outpost near Rafah, on the Egyptian border. The shooting followed a string of Palestinian fire at IDF positions near Rafah, and soldiers returned fire with an anti-tank missile. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the immediate closure of the Dahaniya Airport in Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Nevertheless, heavy gunfire raged late into the night at several locations in the Gaza Strip.
Salameh, a member of the auxiliary Desert Patrol Battalion, was among only six Christians in the southern Beduin unit. His grandfather told reporters that he had opposed his grandson's joining the army. "Two years ago he chose to join the army, [but] I did not want him to. But when I saw how determined he was I wished him to return safely like all the other boys who join the army, especially the volunteers," he said.
Also on Monday, soldiers fired a tank shell at a Palestinian position in Hebron from which gunmen had fired on the Hebron Jewish quarter, narrowly missing a group of children near the quarter's kindergarten. Throughout the afternoon and early evening, heavy exchanges of gunfire continued, with Palestinian snipers shooting on the quarter. A Jewish community spokesman demanded that the IDF retake the surrounding hilltop communities used by Palestinian gunmen as firing positions.
In the evening, the community cabled Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Mishael Cheshin, expressing fears that members of the Jewish community would be unable to vote in the Jewish quarter, since it is under constant Palestinian gunfire.
During voting hours TUESDAY, the IDF imposed a general closure on Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, barring Palestinians from entering Israel except in cases of humanitarian aid. Despite the curfew, violence and shooting attacks intensified, and throughout the country, security forces were on high alert.
Palestinians protesting the Israeli elections participated in demonstrations held in Ramallah and Hebron. In Ramallah, youths burned photos of Barak and Likud candidate Ariel Sharon.
An IDF soldier near Yitzhar, on the outskirts of Nablus, and a border policeman in Hebron were wounded by Palestinian stone-throwers. In the early evening, the army was forced to close the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion tunnel road twice due to Palestinian fire towards Israeli vehicles. Soldiers foiled a terror attack in Gaza after discovering a bomb next to the border fence north of the Kissufim crossing.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.