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Soldier, Gunman Killed in Hebron Battle

March 11, 2003

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ Israeli troops on Tuesday fired a tank shell at a three-story apartment building, then razed it, killing a Palestinian gunman who several hours earlier had attacked an Israeli army patrol, the army and witnesses said.

One Israeli soldier was killed and five wounded in the ambush late Monday in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical PLO faction, claimed responsibility for the shooting. The attack targeted soldiers patrolling a road connecting Hebron with the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.

After the ambush, a gunman ran into a nearby apartment building. At daybreak, residents were asked to leave the building and soldiers fired a tank shell at it, the army said. Despite the shelling, there was shooting from the building as an armored bulldozer wrecked it. Later, the body of a gunman was found in the rubble.

Troops also fired rubber-coated steel pellets in the air when residents tried to approach the rubble to salvage any belongings.

Hebron has been the scene of frequent violence in recent months, especially since Nov. 16 when 12 Israeli security forces were killed in an attack. Since then, the Israeli army has taken over the Palestinian-controlled area of the city.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, a 40-year-old Palestinian militia leader, Jaber Jaber, was shot to death in an apparent vigilante attack. Jaber was walking in a downtown street when a gunman killed him with four shots from a pistol.

Jaber had served time in Israeli jails for killing suspected Palestinian collaborators with Israel, and the suspect in Tuesday’s shooting is a relative of one of Jaber’s victims, security forces said. Jaber led a local militia squad linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.

In the Gaza Strip, the bodies of two Palestinians were found Tuesday near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom. The military said soldiers had spotted the two digging near Kfar Darom late Monday, deemed them suspicious and opened fire. Knives and a bag with a dozen pipe bombs were found nearby, the army said.

The ages and names of the two were not immediately known.

In the West Bank village of Silat al-Harathia, near Jenin, troops demolished the family home of Islamic Jihad activist Anas Jaradat, who remains a fugitive. Israel believes Jaradat was responsible for shooting attacks and attempted car bombings. Twenty people were made homeless by the demolition, Palestinians said.

In Gaza, the army demolished a house belonging to a member of the militant group Hamas and razed an olive grove in the village of Karara in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians said.

The army, apparently referring to the same building, said troops found 110 pounds of explosives and pipe bombs in it. Some trees had to be uprooted for armored vehicles to enter the area, the army said.

Separately, Israel’s Interior Ministry destroyed an Arab-owned home in Jerusalem despite a court ruling putting the demolition on hold, the owner’s lawyer said Tuesday.

The Interior Ministry said the one-story house was demolished because it was built illegally on land earmarked for a school. The ministry said it was unaware an injunction had been issued pending a court hearing.

Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer for the homeowner, said he would file a police complaint against the Interior Ministry, along with a demand for compensation.

In recent years, Israel has demolished dozens of houses built without permits in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem.

Palestinians, who hope to establish a future capital in east Jerusalem, say they have no choice but to build illegally because they are rarely granted permits. Jerusalem city officials have acknowledged that the government is trying to limit Palestinian population growth in Jerusalem.

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