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Hamas leader dies

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February 20, 2001 


BALATA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) A leader of the militant Palestinian Hamas was shot and killed from long range Monday in another apparent targeted killing by Israeli forces.

Witnesses said Mahmoud Madani was walking from a mosque in the Balata refugee camp when he was gunned down. His brother Noor, 21, said Madani cried out, ``I've been hit'' and tried to crawl away. Doctors said Madani was shot four times in the upper body. He died several hours later in a Nablus hospital.

Witnesses said the gunfire came from Israeli positions 150 yards away. Palestinians and Israeli media assumed this was an Israeli killing of a Palestinian uprising activist, though the Israeli military refused to comment.

Israel has targeted and killed at least a dozen Palestinian activists in recent months, according to Palestinians. Usually the Israelis refuse to comment, but officials say often that Israel will hit those who attack Israelis.

In a newspaper interview, the deputy Israeli military chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said a decision has been made ``to deal with, including harm, those who activate gangs against us.'' Yaalon told the Maariv daily that Israel prefers to capture militants instead of killing them.

Palestinians said Madani, 25, was a senior local activist in Hamas, an Islamic group that rejects peace with Israel and has taken responsibility for bomb attacks inside Israel. Israel television said Madani was suspected of involvement in two bombing attacks. On Nov. 22, two Israelis were killed and more than 60 wounded in a bus bombing in Hadera, and in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, a suicide bombing injured dozens of Israelis.

The targeted killings have infuriated the Palestinians and drawn criticism from human rights groups and the U.S. government.

In other violence Monday, Palestinian gunmen in the village of Beit Jalla opened fire on Israeli army positions near the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo in disputed east Jerusalem. Israeli forces fired back.

Two foreign technicians at an amusement park in the West Bank town of Tulkarem were wounded when Israel fired at the area, Palestinians said. They were taken to a local hospital, where doctors identified them as Martin Van Win, 19, from South Africa, and Isbrard Van Sande, 21, from the Netherlands. Van Win suffered a broken leg and Van Sande was being treated for rib injuries, the doctors said.

Israeli soldiers also dismantled five explosive devices near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Homesh, near Nablus, the military said.

Since the current round of violence began on Sept. 28, 405 people have been killed, including 333 Palestinians, 14 Israeli Arabs, 57 other Israelis and one German doctor.

In Gaza and the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians demonstrated in support of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and condemned Friday's U.S.-British airstrike against Iraq. ``Saddam, we wait for your rockets to hit Tel Aviv,'' the crowd chanted, as some marchers fired automatic rifles in the air.

Meanwhile, Palestinians were preparing for a visit to the area by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, set for the end of the week.

In Gaza, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with U.S. Consul-general Ron Schlicher Monday. On Tuesday, Palestinian Economics and Planning Minister Nabil Shaath is to meet Powell in Washington.

At a Cabinet meeting, Arafat called on his people to remain strong despite the hardships of what he called ``five months of continuous (Israeli) aggression.''

Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia on Monday called on Israel's prime minister-elect, Ariel Sharon, to resume negotiations from the point where they were stopped before the Feb. 6 election.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak, trounced in the election, has said that his far-reaching concession offers to the Palestinians are off the table. Sharon had denounced Barak's offer of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza and a share of Jerusalem, and the election is seen by some as a repudiation of the offer.

Barak now seems set to join Sharon's Cabinet as defense minister if their Labor and Likud parties can agree on an alternative approach toward the Palestinians. Disagreements surfaced Monday over the composition of Cabinet and the authority of Barak and Labor's elder statesman Shimon Peres, slated for foreign minister.

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