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>Israel Faxx
>JN Feb. 7, 2002, Vol. 10, No. 26

Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Gunman in Jewish Settlement

By VOA News

Israeli troops have shot and killed a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the West Bank late Wednesday, killing at least one settler and wounding four others.

The gunman shot at a security guard before storming into the Hamra settlement in the Jordan Valley, east of Nablus. Some reports he burst into a house and briefly took hostages. It is unclear if the Palestinian acted alone and if accomplices remained in the area.

Also near Nablus Wednesday, the Israeli army seized eight missiles and a launcher hidden in a Palestinian truckload of vegetables. Soldiers stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint. It was heading from Nablus to the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin. Israeli Brig.- Gen. Gershon Yitzhak said the missiles were capable of hitting Israeli cities.

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli border police said they foiled a likely suicide bombing when they arrested a Palestinian man wearing a belt of explosives on a bus heading to a West Bank settlement.

The driver became suspicious and alerted police at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem. Elsewhere, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

The incidents came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon traveled to Washington to meet with President Bush Thursday. Israeli officials said Sharon will ask Bush to cut all ties with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Israel has declared him irrelevant and not a partner in peace. U.S. officials have said they will continue to deal with Arafat.

This is Sharon's fourth visit to the White House since becoming prime minister 12 months ago. While polls say his popularity has slipped among some Israelis, the support for his government in Washington appears to be at an all time high.

In recent weeks the Bush administration has intensified its calls for Arafat to end the Palestinian uprising against the Jewish state, while openly backing Israeli measures against him and the Palestinian Authority.

The prime minister's foreign policy advisor, Danny Ayalon, said Sharon will compliment Bush on the U.S. led war on international terrorism, and ask him to put more pressure on Arafat.

"From all analysis, all the evidence we have there is one main obstacle to any progress, to peace, and this is Arafat himself. That has not changed and probably will not change. We will look into ways to keep the pressure so some results can be evident on the ground in the fight against terror," Ayalon said.

Since early December Israeli troops have confined Arafat to his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah. While declaring Arafat "irrelevant," Sharon recently held unprecedented meetings with other top Palestinian officials.

Sharon was elected a year ago on a platform of being tough on the Palestinians and bringing an end to the current conflict. While security fears have increased after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israel's economic outlook is bleak, Sharon has succeeded in holding his coalition government together.

Although recent surveys show support for the prime minister's polices has dropped among Israelis, the perception that the Bush administration strongly backs his government has helped him at home.

In addition to discussing the conflict with the Palestinians, Sharon is also expected to discuss Israel's increasing concerns about Iran.

Israel has accused Iran of trying to smuggle a ship full of weapons to the Palestinians last month, and of arming Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon with thousands of missiles aimed at the Jewish state.

Defense Minister: Arafat Increasingly Irrelevant

By Jenny Badner (VOA-Washington)

Israel's Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer is in the United States for the first time since he joined Israel's coalition government last year. He said he is on a mission to pressure Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

Ben-Eliezer said that he is trying to convince American and international leaders to press Arafat to end more than a year of bloodshed.

At the same time, Israel's defense minister described Arafat's role as increasingly irrelevant and quotes unnamed Palestinians who he said oppose the president of the Palestinian Authority. "Therefore for the sake of finding a solution, let's concentrate on talking to the proper people. Ignoring Arafat, I'm not going to touch him, no one is going to touch him, but open a dialogue with them, maybe through them by the pressure coming all over from every point against Arafat, something will happen. What I'm trying to do is try to gather everyone to concentrate on the breakthrough."

While in New York, Ben-Eliezer spoke to Jewish community leaders and accused the Lebanese-based radical group Hizbullah of being infiltrated by members of the al-Qaida terrorist group. The Israeli official also repeated Israel's position that Iran poses a nuclear threat to Israel and the entire region.

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