Policeman Killed, Two Soldiers Wounded by Army Gunfire
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A policeman was killed and two soldiers were seriously wounded when their car sped past two army roadblocks in the occupied West Bank and troops fired at the vehicle, the army and radio reports said today.
The incident Friday night underscores the tension in the occupied territories following a month of violence that left 13 Israelis and 26 Palestinians dead.
The checkpoint was one of dozens set up by troops to enforce a closure of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip ordered by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin earlier this week.
The army said Staff Sgt. Eitan Masika of the Israeli police was driving in the West Bank about 10:30 p.m. Friday with three Israeli soldiers in his car.
Israel radio said the three soldiers - two men and a woman - had left their base without permission and were hitchhiking near the Jewish settlement of Maale Ephraim in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley when they were picked up by Masika.
Masika’s car was headed toward central Israel when he reached an army roadblock on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Nablus and ignored signals by soldiers to stop, the radio said.
Soldiers radioed a nearby patrol which set up a second checkpoint. Again soldiers gestured for Masika’s car to stop but Masika sped past without slowing down.
It was not clear from the army statement whether the soldiers had erected obstacles in the road. The Israel radio report indicated the checkpoints were at the side of the road.
After Masika’s car drove past the second checkpoint, soldiers fired into the air, then at the wheels of the car, which came to a halt about 200 yards from the troops, the radio said, quoting a senior army officer.
One of the hitchhikers got out of Masika’s car and fired a shot, the radio said. He reportedly told police later the shot was meant as a signal for the patrol to stop shooting.
The soldiers at the checkpoint believed they were dealing with an armed assailant and continued to fire, stopping only when they heard shouts in Hebrew, the radio said.
The shots killed Masika and seriously wounded the woman and another soldier. The third soldier was not injured. The radio said the trunk and rear door of Masika’s car were riddled with bullets and the rear window was shattered.
The army said it was investigating.