JERUSALEM (Jul. 12)
The cease-fire that wasn’t is even more in tatters following a series of shooting attacks on Israeli drivers that injured four people, including three members of a single family.
Palestinian sources said two Palestinian security officials were killed and four wounded in subsequent clashes with Israeli troops Thursday.
Reacting to the attacks, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters traveling with him to Italy, where he was due to meet with government leaders, that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is not observing the U.S.-mediated cease-fire announced last month.
In the latest violence, an Israeli was critically wounded when shots were fired Thursday afternoon at his car in the vicinity of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron. Reports said gunmen opened fire from a passing car.
Earlier, an Israeli infant and her family were wounded when gunmen fired on their car near the settlement of Har Bracha, near Nablus.
The father sustained moderate injuries, and the mother and daughter were lightly hurt.
Reports quoted witnesses as saying the gunmen were wearing clothing resembling Israeli army uniforms.
In all the cases, the gunmen appeared to be aiming for the Israelis’ heads.
Following the attack, Israel Defense Force troops seized a hilltop in Palestinian-controlled territory that overlooks the road leading to the settlement. The IDF said the move was a “temporary measure” for security reasons.
In Hebron, Jewish settlers scuffled with Palestinians in the market until police separated the two sides.
There were armed clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen in the Nablus area Thursday, during which the army fired tank shells.
Amid the ongoing violence, Cabinet minister Dalia Itzik on Thursday denied a report in the London-based Foreign Report that Israel’s army chief of staff recently presented the Security Cabinet with a plan for a wide-scale military operation to destroy the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Itzik added that right-wing Cabinet ministers have been upping the pressure on Sharon to reconsider the government’s policy of restraint.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres also dismissed the London report as the product of a “fertile imagination.”
Meanwhile, Peres’ office said there was no basis to reports that he may meet with Arafat during talks he is scheduled to hold in Cairo on Sunday.