Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators protesting an Israeli security barrier in the West Bank on Monday, and police found the body of a soldier they suspect was kidnapped and killed by Arabs.
The protest came ahead of a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US President George W. Bush yesterday. The two will discuss how to move ahead with the US-backed "road map" peace plan that calls for a Palestinian state by 2005.
About 200 people -- 140 Palestinians and 60 foreign supporters -- protested at the security fence 15km west of the West Bank town of Jenin on Monday.
Several tried to cut or push through the fence, and Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at them, dispersing the crowd. One of the foreigners was wounded in the leg and was taken to a hospital. There were no arrests.
The security fence is a major sticking point between Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis say the barrier, which is still being constructed, is needed to stop militants from entering into Israel to carry out attacks.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Monday that Israel would offer to freeze construction of a section of the fence that drives deep into the West Bank, but a government spokesman called the report "speculations."
"The prime minister will explain to President Bush the need for the fence, which is only security-related and is not supposed to create a political border," Sharon aide Avi Pazner said.
The barrier sweeps into Palestinian areas of the West Bank to encircle Jewish settlements, and Palestinians say the project amounts to a land-grab that cuts them off from agricultural fields, towns and jobs. Bush has suggested that the project hinders Mideast confidence-building.
In violence early yesterday, Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli car near the Jewish settlement of Itzhar in the West Bank, slightly wounding an 11-year-old girl, the rescue service said. She was treated at a local clinic and then taken to a hospital.
Israeli police on Monday found the body of a soldier who had been missing for a week, and the investigation focused on suspicions he was kidnapped and killed by Arabs.
The body of Oleg Shaichat, 20, who disappeared July 21, was found buried in northern Israel, said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. Hundreds of police, soldiers and volunteers had been searching for him.
Police suspected that Shaichat had been abducted by Arabs. Security officials have warned they have intelligence warnings of militants' intentions to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
"We are talking about a murder with nationalist motives," said Yaakov Borovski, northern region police commander, using a Hebrew euphemism for terrorism.
"We cannot say at the moment who the killers are or if we are talking about Israeli Arabs or people from the territories," he said, referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said late Monday that Shaichat was "murdered in cold blood ... immediately after being kidnapped."
Shaichat's disappearance followed the kidnapping of an Israeli taxi-driver by Palestinians on July 11. The cabbie was later freed by Israeli commandos, and officials said main Palestinian militant groups were not involved.
Shaichat was last seen by a fellow hitchhiker traveling in a car near the biblical village of Cana in the Galilee, on his way to his home in a nearby Jewish suburb of Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city.