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Israel Says It Killed Unarmed Palestinian

December 17, 2002

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A suspected bomber killed by troops in the Gaza Strip turned out not to have been carrying explosives but had rushed an army patrol at night in an area off limits to Palestinians, the army said Tuesday.

Palestinians said the man was mentally disabled.

In an initial report Monday night, Israeli security sources said the man was shot from a distance of about 10 yards as he ran toward soldiers, who thought he was a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his body.

In the same spot Tuesday, troops were attacked by Palestinians shooting and throwing grenades, an army statement said. An Israeli civilian at the scene was lightly wounded but there were no reports of other casualties, it added.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers searching for suspected Palestinian militants discovered a ``mobile bomb lab″ in the car of one fugitive, the army said.

Bomb disposal experts blew up the vehicle, which contained plastic explosives, weapons and chemicals used for making explosives, the military said. Troops arrested the driver and two other wanted men.

In the town of Hebron, soldiers found and defused a 22-pound bomb in the remains of the local Palestinian Authority headquarters. The compound had been largely demolished by troops in successive incursions.

In the Israeli port city of Haifa, an explosion initially feared to be a Palestinian attack appears to have been caused by a technical fault in a chemical plant. There were no injuries.

Israeli security officials are on constant guard against what they say are Palestinian plans to carry out a ``mega attack″ _ a bombing or other form or raid on a hitherto unseen scale.

In May, counterterrorism agents discovered a plot to bomb twin office towers in downtown Tel Aviv. The towers _ the Israeli version of the World Trade Center _ are 50 and 46 stories respectively.

The same month, Palestinians planted a bomb under a diesel tanker and detonated it when the vehicle entered the country’s largest fuel depot, situated in a heavily built-up area on the edge of Tel Aviv. The explosion failed to set off the depot’s massive fuel storage silos and there were no casualties but the thought of what might have been the outcome sent shivers up Israeli spines.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, troops arrived to demolish a building they said was used as a hide-out for Palestinian militants, but called off the operation when the owner was found to have ties with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Israeli peace institutes.

Neighbors said the building was owned by Hussein Othman Issa, whose family run the Hope Flowers school, which promotes Palestinian understanding of Israelis, teaches its students Hebrew and preaches coexistence. Clinton and Israeli former foreign minister Shimon Peres are among the school’s backers.

Family members said the ground floor of the house was rented out to local Palestinian laborers and they were unaware that the tenants might have been engaged in any violent activity.

They said Israeli bulldozers knocked down a garden wall and a carport before pulling out. The army said it was checking the report.

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