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Gunfire Kills Two Palestinians

December 21, 2000

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Gunfire killed two Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories Thursday, adding more deaths to a sorrowful day of funeral processions.

The turmoil came as Israeli and Palestinian delegations met in Washington for a third day of consultations aimed at reviving peace negotiations.

In the Gaza Strip, a group of diplomats touring the area had to scurry for cover when an exchange of gunfire erupted, said Reinhard Wiemer, spokesman for the German Embassy. The fire was not directed at the diplomats, and no one was hurt in the incident near Khan Yunis, he said.

Palestinian authorities said an 18-year-old, Ahed Marish, was hit Thursday by gunfire from an Israeli tank as he was walking to his home near the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Ambulance drivers said the body was badly mutilated by heavy-caliber bullets.

The Israeli military said it was checking the report.

In the West Bank, Ahmed Awad, 41, was killed by Israeli gunfire in a clash near the town of Tulkarem. The Israeli military said Palestinians fired at an army vehicle and soldiers fired back, hitting one person. Palestinians who brought the body to a clinic said Awad was in his house when he was shot.

At the Rafah refugee camp in the southern tip of Gaza, masked gunmen fired into the air as four flag-draped coffins were carried through the streets close to the spot where a heavy firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops had erupted Wednesday.

One masked mourner burned an Israeli flag, while another shouted a warning to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak into a loudspeaker, ``Barak, know that our bullets will take revenge for all the bloodshed.″

The Israeli-Palestinian fighting, which broke out at the end of September, has taken the lives of 338 people, most of them Palestinians.

In less than three months, the death toll has surpassed the number killed during the entire first year of the previous Palestinian uprising, which lasted from 1987 to 1993. A total of 331 people were killed in the first year, from December 1987 to December 1988.

The increased death toll reflects Palestinian gunfire and a heavier Israeli response, including machine guns, tanks and attack helicopters. In the first uprising, Palestinians rarely opened fire, attacking Israeli soldiers with rocks and bottles. The Israelis responded with tear gas and rifle fire.

Near the West Bank town of Ramallah, four Israeli soldiers were hurt when a Palestinian rammed his truck into them near a military checkpoint while a stone-throwing clash was in progress, the army said. Soldiers shot at the truck and captured the driver, who suffered wounds to the hand, arm and leg, a hospital said.

Among the 5,000 mourners at the Rafah funeral was the mother of 12-year-old Hani al-Sofi, who wept as she carried a small framed black-and-white photo of him.

``His dream was to become a good man who could serve his people,″ she said, then broke off, unable to speak through her sobs.

Update hourly