Even as US Secretary of State Colin Powell met with PLO chief Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Sunday to urge an end to Palestinian violence, two Israelis were shot nearby in an ambush by members of Arafat's elite bodyguard unit, Force 17.
The two separate shooting attacks yesterday wounded a pair of Areret residents, at about the same time Powell was meeting with Arafat in nearby Ramallah. ISRAEL RADIO reported today that the drive-by attacks on two Israelis shot by Palestinian gunmen in Samaria were carried out by members of Force 17.
Palestinian gunmen shot from a car at Yossi Cohen, 43, as he drove past the Bir Zeit bridge north of Ramallah. After he came to a halt, the car also stopped and riddled Cohen's van with more bullets, hitting him in the head and shoulder. He was taken to a Jerusalem hospital and listed in serious but stable condition. A total of 20 bullets hit the van, the IDF said.
Shortly afterwards, about six kilometers away, Rachel Levine, 41, was lightly injured in the leg and hand as gunmen ambushed her vehicle from a position close to Ofra.
"There are a number of details that link the two attacks, like the location and the type of weapon used," said Binyamin region commander Col. Ilan Paz. "But I can't say for certain that the same cell carried out the attacks." He said the gunmen probably fled into Ramallah.
In spite of the shootings, the IDF decided to lift an internal blockade that divided the Gaza Strip in half. It was imposed on Friday after yet another mortar attack on an Israeli community in Gaza.
In other incidents over recent days, an IDF soldier was wounded on Monday when a bomb exploded near the Tarmit outpost, on the border with Egypt in the Gaza Strip.
Also today, Palestinian gunmen fired at an Israeli vehicle traveling in the vicinity of the Neveh Dekalim industrial zone. The driver was unhurt in the attack, though the vehicle sustained significant damage. IDF soldiers immediately returned heavy fire at the source of the shooting, ending the sniping.
Palestinians opened fire on IDF soldiers with heavy machine guns in the northern Gaza Strip, near the Jebaliya refugee camp. IDF tanks returned machine gun fire.
Intermittent exchanges of fire between Palestinians and IDF soldiers continued today near the Gush Katif bloc of communities in southern Gaza. Palestinians in nearby Khan Yunis were also reported firing on IDF forces.
In Judea/Samaria, Palestinians shot at an IDF roadblock in Rifat, south of Ramallah.
A high-level meeting was held Sunday night between Israeli and Palestinian security forces at the Erez crossing into Gaza to discuss renewed cooperation.
In other violence on Sunday, IDF soldiers detected a life-size doll on the border fence near Nahal Oz in the Gaza Strip. Suspecting it might be booby-trapped, an armored IDF tractor exploded it. Immediately afterward, a nearby mine was detonated but caused no damage.
Soldiers also caught armed Palestinians preparing sniping positions on the roof of a building near Gush Katif. IDF troops shot at the assailants, who managed to escape into PA-controlled territory.
Several shooting attacks occurred after nightfall in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Palestinians reported one killed and one injured. The IDF said it had no information on fatalities.
On Friday morning, Palestinians detonated a bomb near an IDF patrol checking the Karni-Netzarim road. An IDF tracker was lightly injured by the blast. Later another bomb exploded near an army bulldozer working in the area of Morag's hothouses. Further shooting and grenade attacks occurred Friday and Saturday in Gaza.
In Hebron, Palestinians threw 22 firebombs in Shallalah Street. Near El Khader, 21-year-old Raed Mussa was killed during clashes with soldiers. In the afternoon, demonstrators in Ramallah burned US flags and cardboard models of missiles bearing pictures of US President George W. Bush, then converged on the Ayosh Junction, where shots were fired at Israeli soldiers deployed nearby. During the day, Palestinians fired at the hilltop community of Psagot and at an IDF patrol near an army base south of Jenin.
Although several mortar attacks occurred Thursday and Friday, a head of PA security in Gaza denied that Palestinians possessed such weaponry.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.