Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian leader Abbas tells Israel to stop intrusions


Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to stop invading Palestinian-controlled areas, saying Wednesday that it "deepens the hatred between the two peoples."

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday that if Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, did not begin working to end terror attacks against Israel, he would wind up like Yasser Arafat, whom Israel is trying to marginalize.

"Abu Mazen's fate is in his own hands," Shalom said.

Also Wednesday, Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians in a confrontation in a West Bank village near Ramallah, residents said. The dead were a 17-year-old stone thrower and a 35-year-old woman, according to hospital director Musa Abu Hmead.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

The US is trying to press forward its "road map" peace plan, a three-year plan that starts with an end to 31 months of violence and leads to creation of a Palestinian state. Sharon has posed 15 reservations to the plan, most of them about security.

US President George W. Bush called Sharon and Abbas on Tuesday, urging both sides to take steps to end the violence and resume talks. Sharon had been due to meet Bush in Washington on Tuesday, but called off the trip after a suicide bombing on Sunday killed seven people.

Abbas has said he will stop militants from carrying out attacks against Israel -- as required in the road map -- but insists Israel honor its initial commitments as well, including freezing settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and stopping army operations in Palestinian cities and towns.

Abbas canceled a visit Wednesday to Beit Hanoun when Israeli bulldozers and troops rolled back into the northern Gaza town. Israeli forces pulled out of Beit Hanoun on Tuesday after a five-day invasion to stop the firing of homemade rockets at a nearby Israeli town.

In Beit Hanoun, Associated Press photographer Hathem Moussa came under fire -- apparently from Israeli troops -- on Wednesday. Five bullets hit his armored car as he left an area where two dozen Palestinians were throwing stones at Israeli tanks.

Moussa was not hurt.

His white car, marked on four sides with "TV" spelled out in phosphorescent orange tape, was hit by bullets in its back and side windows.

There were no Palestinian gunmen in the area at the time, and no place for them to take cover, Moussa said.

The Associated Press filed a complaint with the Israeli military, which said it was investigating.

"During the time in question there was a massive exchange of fire in the area," said Maj. Sharon Feingold, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force. "The IDF is committed to freedom of the press and it does not fire at journalists. We are looking into this incident and will report our findings when we have them."

In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers searching a house in the city of Nablus found and destroyed an explosives laboratory hidden in a tunnel, the army said. Troops found six explosive belts, 25 kilograms of explosives and other chemicals in the tunnel, the army said.

The army also destroyed the Nablus house of an Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militant who carried out a suicide attack in Tel Aviv in January.

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