Palestinian gunmen and rioters rampaged in the Ramallah area after a rare visit by PLO chief Yasser Arafat and the arrest of the brother of a senior Fatah commander.
On Monday, about 100 Palestinian demonstrators moved towards Atarot airfield, which lies on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, near Ramallah and the Kalandia refugee camp. Military sources said that soldiers protecting the airfield fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the stone-throwing crowd to disperse them, but it did not have any effect. When they started to scale the fence and break into the airfield, orders were given to shoot the leader of the group, military sources said. Palestinian hospital sources later said that Husam Deese, 15, had been shot in the heart in that incident.
On Tuesday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen shot at a van traveling near Atarot, wounding three Israelis, one seriously. Two bullets hit Shoshana Gotlieb, 48, of Jerusalem, in the chest. She was rushed to Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, where she was in serious condition. Two other Jerusalemites, Leonid Gamburg, 40, and Margalit Ben-Sa'adon, 31, were slightly wounded by shrapnel and flying glass, police said. Three terrorists were reportedly involved in the incident. The gunmen fled on foot to Rifat, where a waiting car drove them to Ramallah.
It was the fifth shooting incident on the road, and police have advised Israelis to refrain from traveling on it. Troops quickly converged on Rifat to impose a curfew. Shots were fired at them and a short firefight erupted. Two soldiers were lightly wounded. The gunmen were not found. Military sources suspect the attack was carried out by members of Arafat's Force 17.
Also Tuesday, gunmen fired at Jewish communities near Ramallah. A squad of soldiers sweeping the village of Rifat, where three gunmen had fled, came under fire, and ricochets wounded two. At Psagot, soldiers were fired upon and fired back with heavy machine guns. Palestinian gunfire at the Ayosh junction, north of Ramallah, was answered with tank cannon, the army said.
"The whole Ramallah front has erupted in shooting attacks," said an IDF spokesman. "It appears to be linked to Arafat's departure from the city, which gave a green light to attacks." Arafat had been on his first visit to the city since the outbreak of the intifada five months ago, where he meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell urged the Palestinians to calm the violence.
The shootings were also said to be linked to the arrest of the brother of local Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti as he tried to cross from Jordan over the Allenby Bridge, military sources said. Hisham Barghouti was detained after he was found to be carrying night-vision equipment which could be attached to weapons or cameras, military sources said.
The AP also reported that Salim Akra, 37, suspected of collaborating with Israel, had been tortured to death in Nablus.
Meanwhile, the results of an autopsy performed on the body of Mordechai Shefer on Tuesday determined that he had been murdered and did not die in a work accident as was initially thought. Shefer, 56, of Kfar Sava, was found in his olive grove on Monday afternoon. He went to spray the grove with pesticide and when he did not return home or answer his cellphone, his wife and teenage son went looking for him and found him dead. Shefer had no criminal record, and police said they are investigating the murder from all angles, including terrorism, as the olive grove on Moshav Hagur is located near the Green Line.
While clashes in the Judea/Samaria focused around Ramallah, a powerful roadside bomb exploded near an IDF patrol along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border on Monday evening and moderately wounded an officer. The bomb was detonated north of the Rafah junction against a heavily armored personnel carrier previously used in Lebanon. Earlier, Palestinians threw 10 hand grenades at IDF troops in the Rafah area and detonated a bomb, all of which exploded without causing any casualties.
On Tuesday, stone-throwing demonstrators converged on the Karni crossing into Gaza. Palestinian reports said soldiers opened fire and hit a 13-year-old boy in the head. A spokesman for Gaza's Shifa Hospital claimed he was in critical condition. The IDF said that a Palestinian mob had rioted at the crossing, but denied that troops had opened fire.
Troops near the Kissufim crossing detected a large bomb planted to explode near a patrol. Sappers detonated it safely, the IDF said. This came as relief goods for Palestinians were allowed across the Egyptian border at Rafah for the first time since the February 6 election. They included 15 ambulances donated by Saudi Arabia and several trucks full of Egyptian relief goods. The UN World Food Program also began a large-scale distribution of flour in Gaza.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.