The youngest victim of the six-month-old Israeli- Palestinian conflict finally has been laid to rest.
The parents of Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old Jewish girl killed by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron last week, agreed to hold the funeral on Sunday after appeals from public figures, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Despite Jewish law that calls for swift burial, the parents initially refused to bury Shalhevet, insisting that the Israeli army first recapture the Palestinian neighborhood from where the fatal shots were fired.
Large numbers of Israeli troops were stationed in Hebron on Sunday as the long funeral procession for Shalhevet, wrapped in a blue velvet shroud with a yellow Star of David, made its way from the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the old Jewish cemetery in town.
Shalhevet was with her parents when snipers opened fire on Hebron’s Avraham Avinu enclave from the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Sneineh, which overlooks the Jewish neighborhood. Her father, Yitzhak, was wounded in the leg.
Israeli troops returned fired on Abu Sneineh several times last week, but the settlers renewed their demand for further action.
“The murderer is still up there” in Abu Sneineh, “with his friends,” Hebron Jewish leader Noam Arnon warned as the infant was being laid to rest.
Shortly after the funeral ended there were exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinians gunmen in Abu Sneineh. No one was hurt.
Last Friday, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer announced that Israel is ready to take off the gloves in the conflict with the Palestinians.
He also said he would consider sending Israeli troops into areas under Palestinian control “if they try to misuse territory which we agreed in advance was theirs.”
That same day, the United States dissociated itself from a new Israeli policy to take a tougher stand against Palestinian violence.
“There is no coordination between the United States and Israel with regard to their military actions against the Palestinians,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
In another development, Palestinian security officials on Sunday denounced Israel’s arrest the previous night of members of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17 guard.
According to reports, an Israeli undercover unit arrested five Force 17 members, including a regional commander, in the village of Jaljulya near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The village is under sole Palestinian control.
Jibril Rajoub, the commander of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, warned that Israel was playing with fire and had “crossed a red line.”
Mohammad Dahlan, Rajoub’s counterpart in the Gaza Strip, called the operation an “escalation” of the conflict and said Israel would bear responsibility for any Palestinian response.
Israel has accused Arafat and Force 17 of coordinating terror attacks against Israel with Palestinian militant groups.
Last week, following a string of terrorist bombings and attacks that left three Israelis dead and dozens wounded, Israeli air force helicopters rocketed Force 17 targets in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip.
Sharon has vowed to restore Israeli security and strike at those responsible for attacks on Israelis.
But he came under criticism from several ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday over his handling of the upsurge in terrorism.
The most extreme remarks came from the far-right tourism minister, Rehavam Ze’evi.
Ze’evi said last week’s rocket attacks on empty Force 17 headquarters was too weak a response to Palestinian assaults on Israelis.
He said destroying Arafat’s home in Gaza was the only way to get Arafat to reconsider his fight against Israel.
Ze’evi later told Israel Radio that every Palestinian act of violence should get a “Zionist response,” such as “developing a settlement that was halted, or even demolishing the palace of Mr. Arafat.”
Other cabinet members, including the Likud’s Danny Naveh, criticized Ze’evi’s remarks as irresponsible.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.