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Israel Pledges to Improve Security at Settlements - 2002-07-17


Israel has pledged to spend more than $20 million to improve security at Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The move is in response to a Palestinian attack on Tuesday that killed eight people.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has vowed that his troops will hunt down all those who took part in the attack, which occurred near the entrance to the Jewish settlement of Emmanuel in the West Bank.

He also promised to spend more than $20 million on measures to better safeguard the more than 200,000 Jewish settlers who live in the territory.

The move is certain to anger Palestinians who are calling for all the settlements to be dismantled, in order to clear the way for the West Bank to become part of a future Palestinian state.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer's comments came after one Israeli soldier was killed Wednesday and three others wounded in an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer says Israel knows the identity of all the Palestinians responsible for Tuesday's attack. He says Israeli security forces will track them down, and "lay their hands on those who sent them as well."

Israeli military commanders believe that Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, carried out the attack.

In a separate development, Israel Wednesday formally charged a commander of the military wing of Fatah and a top activist in the Islamic Jihad with murder and other offenses related to terrorist attacks.

Both men have been ordered to stand trial in the Tel Aviv District Court, in what appears to be a policy decision to have more Palestinian militants judged before civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

The move is apparently aimed at assuring the international community that such defendants are being granted the right to fair trials.

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