Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Palestinian gunman kills baby girl

NEW YEAR The holiday shooting, in which the girl's father also died, was the first deadly attack since the Israeli government decided to remove Yasser Arafat

AP , NEGAHOT, WEST BANK

A Palestinian gunman fired into a home in this isolated Israeli settlement during Jewish New Year's festivities, killing a man and a baby girl in the first deadly attack since Israel's security Cabinet decided earlier this month to remove Yasser Arafat.

There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting rampage in Negahot late on Friday, but Israeli government officials blamed Ara-fat's Palestinian Authority for not stopping such violence.

The officials refused to say whether Israel would now speed up efforts to expel Arafat. Israel has not said when it would take action against the Palestinian leader, but it is believed the trigger could be a major Palestinian terror attack with many Israeli casualties.

"We have information that the Palestinian Authority has not been doing anything in the last few days to deter these terrorist organizations from carrying out their atrocities during the religious holidays," said Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman.

Palestinian officials said leaders of Arafat's Fatah party would meet as planned yesterday to approve a new Cabinet for the incoming Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia.

The Palestinian armed with an M-16 broke into the isolated settlement of Negahot at around 9pm on Friday, said Captain Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman. The attacker knocked on the door of one of the houses and shot a 30-year-old guest who answered and the 7-month-old girl.

Soldiers guarding Negahot, near the West Bank city of Hebron, killed the attacker before he could escape, Dallal said.

The girl's parents were lightly injured in the shooting, he said.

"It's no coincidence that this attack was planned for this hour, the night of the Jewish New Year," Dallal said. "Clearly the people behind the attack knew they could find families at home during the holiday dinner."

Several attacks have been carried out during Jewish holidays in the past three years, most notably the March 27 suicide bombing last year at the Park Hotel in the northern coastal town of Netanya, which killed 29 people as they participated in the ritual Passover meal.

In an effort to prevent a repeat of such incidents, Israel stepped up security during the two-day New Year's holiday that ends at sundown today. Palestinians were banned from entering Israel and under a tightened travel ban in most of the West Bank, Palestinians were barred from leaving their communities. Thousands of police officers were also sent to guard synagogues, parks and intersections in Israel.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was determined to "remove" Arafat one day, even at the risk of harming him.

"You have to keep in mind that it is very difficult to ensure that he [Arafat] won't be harmed if we seize him," Sharon told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

The fate of Arafat, who is holed up in the West Bank city of Ramallah, was thrown into question Sept. 11, when Israel's security cabinet called for his removal.

Sharon said the security cabinet's decision canceled his personal promise to US President George W. Bush -- made several years ago -- not to harm the Palestinian leader physically.

Other top Israeli officials have said the term "removal" could mean both expulsion and assassination, but Sharon's remarks seemed to suggest the first choice is to oust Arafat.

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