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German Killed in Mideast Fighting

November 16, 2000

BEIT JALLA, West Bank (AP) _ Harald Fischer left the relative safety of his home despite heavy Israeli shooting. A neighbor’s house had just been hit by an Israeli rocket, and the German chiropractor wanted to go next door to check if anyone needed help.

Fischer, 68, had walked just a few steps when he was killed _ gunned down either by a rocket or large-caliber machine gun fire that severed his left leg.

The street was deserted because of the intense fighting, and it took two hours, until about 1:30 a.m. local time Thursday, before Fischer’s bullet-riddled body was discovered by Palestinian police and taken to a nearby hospital.

Fischer’s Palestinian wife, Norma, and their three children, ages 10, 15 and 17, learned of his death from friends who watched a report of the incident on local television and then called the family.

Fischer became the first foreigner to be killed in seven weeks of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that has claimed more than 220 lives, most of them Palestinian.

The Israeli government had no immediate comment.

Speaking at a foreign ministers meeting in Marseille, France, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he was ``shocked and horrified″ by the killing. He said he talked with Shlomo Ben-Ami, his Israeli counterpart, to demand an immediate investigation.

Hours after the shooting, Harald Fischer’s black-clad wife leaned against a wall for support as she spoke.

``The German government must understand our problem and try to find a fair solution immediately because we are facing a real war here,″ she said.

Fischer was a native of Gummersbach near Cologne in western Germany. He came to Beit Jalla, a predominantly Christian town just south of Jerusalem, in 1981 with Lifegate, a charitable group that helps handicapped Palestinians.

He married the same year and settled in Beit Jalla, opening a private practice as a chiropractor. His pastor, Jadallah Shihadeh from the Lutheran Church in Beit Jalla, said that during the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising, Fischer helped many injured Palestinians with their rehabilitation.

In seven weeks of fighting, Beit Jalla has been rocketed repeatedly by Israel, usually in response to Palestinian gunmen shooting on Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood just across a ravine from the West Bank. Fischer’s house on the outskirts of Beit Jalla is in the line of fire.

Wednesday’s seven-hour firefight was the heaviest yet, with Israel pounding Beit Jalla with rockets and large-caliber machine gun fire. Eight Beit Jalla residents were injured, including two in the house next to Fischer’s.

The fighting began at about 7:30 p.m., and the Fischers took cover under a stairwell. Several windows on the second floor were shattered by the shooting. At about 11:30 p.m., paramedics knocked on the door and informed the family that a neighbor’s house had been hit, and that there might have been injuries.

Fischer left his home to check out the report, his wife said.

At the spot where he died, just 50 yards from his front door, Palestinian neighbors erected a small roadside memorial Thursday _ placing stones and a bouquet of flowers around his picture.

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