- Title: WEST BANK: Israel kills 3 Palestinian gunmen, pushes ahead with offensive
- Date: 30th September 2005
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) NASSIR ABU AZIZ, MEMBER OF AL AQSA MARTYRS BRIGADE SAYING THAT HE IS AGAINST THE ISRAELI CEASEFIRE AND THAT THEY PLAN TO SEEK REVENGE ON ISRAELI DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON NEXT WEEK
- Embargoed: 15th October 2005 13:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA8X1035O6C4YMNH5UANHTP3R79
- Story Text: Israeli forces killed three Palestinian gunmen in the occupied West Bank on Friday (September 30), pressing ahead with Israel kills 3 gunmen, pushes ahead with offensive. raids against militants despite a halt to cross-border rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
The week-long wave of violence has badly frayed a seven-month-old ceasefire and deflated hopes that Israel's Gaza pullout, completed on Sept. 12, might soon open the way for a revival of peacemaking after five years of bloodshed. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, announced the deaths of the three gunmen over loudspeakers in Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus, saying they were killed by soldiers mounting a raid. An Israeli military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said Palestinians fired at troops who entered Balata and nearby Askar refugee camp to arrest militants in the pre-dawn operation. "The soldiers shot back, and several (gunmen) were hit. One soldier was slightly wounded. In all, 11 terrorists were detained," she said. On Thursday (September 29), Israeli troops shot dead three gunmen in West Bank raids. Hundreds of suspected militants have been detained by Israeli forces in sweeps into Palestinian villages and towns in the territory over the past week. The rocket fire that led to the Israeli offensive, which has included artillery and missile attacks in the Gaza Strip, abated on Tuesday in response to pleas from the Palestinian public for calm to enable reconstruction after 38 years of occupation.
The latest bloodshed came hours after Palestinians finished voting in a third round of local elections in the West Bank widely seen as a test of political clout for the militant Hamas group ahead of a parliamentary ballot in January. Fatah won control of 59 percent of the 104 municipal councils up for grabs compared with 27 percent for Hamas and 14 percent for other factions, said Jamal al-Shobaki, head of the Higher Commission for Local Elections. The results -- final official figures were to be issued in a few days -- were in line with opinion polls that gave Hamas about 30 percent support, pointing to big gains when it takes part in the legislative election. Hamas boycotted the only previous parliamentary ballot in 1996 in protest at peacemaking with Israel. Sworn to destroy the Jewish state, Hamas made a strong showing in the two earlier phases of municipal voting and its charity networks, lack of corruption and suicide bombings have won many Palestinian hearts during fighting with Israel. The prospect of a key role for Hamas in Palestinian politics has raised eyebrows in Israel and abroad due to the group's refusal to disarm under a U.S.-backed peace roadmap.
The plan envisages a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had said Israel would not facilitate Palestinian voting in the parliamentary ballot in the West Bank, where the army has a network of roadblocks, if Hamas ran in the election without first disarming. Palestinian officials have responded to such statements by urging Israel to stay out of Palestinian politics.
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