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Arrest in Bethlehem Killing; 11-Year-Old Dies of Wounds

May 1, 1991

JERUSALEM (AP) _ An 18-year-old Palestinian wanted in the stabbing death of a French tourist in Bethlehem was arrested today and confessed to the killing, the army said.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, meanwhile, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy died from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in a clash with soldiers last week.

Also today, the army declared the northern part of the West Bank a ″closed military area,″ preventing reporters from covering a parade and speeches planned by Palestinian labor unions in Nablus for May Day.

The suspect in the Bethlehem slaying, identified as Khaled Ahmed Asakra, was a waiter at the restaurant where the woman was slain Tuesday.

An army statement said Asakra was apprehended in Bethlehem by soldiers and security agents. ″In initial questioning of the suspect, he admitted committing the murder,″ the statement said.

Palestinians who know the suspect said he did not belong to any Palestinian activist or Muslim fundamentalist group and had no record of problems with police.

Army officials on Tuesday had said the killing of the French woman was the work of a ″Muslim fanatic.″

Arab reports said Asakra gave himself up at Israeli military government headquarters in Bethlehem after Israeli troops clamped a curfew on his village of Asakra nearby and arrested two of his brothers and a number of other young men.

A third brother, also was a waiter, was detained at the restaurant Tuesday.

The woman, Anne Ley, 64, had lunch with a group of 15 French tourists at a restaurant on Bethlehem’s Manger Square. She was stabbed in the women’s bathroom.

The killing has drawn sharp criticism from Palestinians, including Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij. He said it was the ″national duty″ for Palestinians to make foreign visitors welcome.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, from its headquarters in Tunis, also condemned the crime. Faisal Husseini, a leading pro-PLO leader in Arab east Jerusalem, told the city’s Arabic newspapers that the slaying was ″an ugly crime.″

Bethlehem, a town of 40,000 people, draws thousands of Christian pilgrims each year to worship at the Church of the Nativity, where tradition holds Christ was born.

Meanwhile, Nidal Ain Abusi, 11, died in Ramallah Hospital today, doctors said. He was shot by Israeli troops on Friday during a stone-throwing clash in the West Bank city of Nablus. The army confirmed the death.

Abusi’s death raised to 820 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers or civilians during the Palestinian uprising that began in December 1987.

An additional 375 Palestinians have been killed by fellow Arabs, most on suspicion of collaborating with Israel. Sixty-five Israelis and five foreigners have died in the violence.

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