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Killing of Senior Hamas Militant Draws Criticism, Vows of Reprisal - 2002-08-15


Israeli troops killed a senior Hamas militant and a young neighbor during a security operation late Wednesday in the West Bank generating criticism and vows of reprisals. Also Wednesday, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Jerusalem to discuss frozen tax revenues and security issues, hours after an Israeli court indicted a popular Palestinian legislator and activist on charges of murder.

In continued security sweeps in Palestinian areas, Israeli troops killed a senior member of the militant Islamic group Hamas, late Wednesday. Nassr Jarrar was killed when troops destroyed a house he was in near the northern West Bank city, Jenin.

Israel accuses Mr. Jarrar of continuing to recruit suicide bombers and of planning bomb attacks despite the fact that he is bound to a wheelchair as a result of losing both legs and an arm in an attempted bomb attack, last year. Israeli security forces say Mr. Jarrar was planning a major attack aimed at an unspecified Israeli high-rise building.

Hamas spokesman Abdulaziz Rantisi said Thursday in Gaza that Nassr Jarrar's death will not go unpunished.

Also killed in the operation was a 19-year-old neighbor, who had been sent by the military to the house where Mr. Jarrar was hiding to tell him to surrender. Israeli forces say the neighbor was killed when gunfire erupted from inside the house. Palestinians say he was killed by Israeli gunfire. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem accused Israeli soldiers of using the young neighbor as a human shield.

Earlier Wednesday, one of the most popular leaders of the Palestinian uprising was brought before Tel Aviv District Court. Marwan Barghouti was was indicted on various charges of murder and association with a terrorist group. Mr. Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian legislature and the leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank.

The prosecution hopes to show Mr. Barghouti and Fatah were directly involved in orchestrating and financing attacks against Israelis. Mr. Barghouti and his lawyers will try to put the focus on Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Entering the packed courtroom, Mr. Barghouti waved his handcuffed wrists defiantly above his head asserting he is a man of peace and that the Intifada will win, in the end. Mr. Barghouti said security and peace would only come with an end to Israeli occupation. His trial resumes September 5.

Hours after Mr. Barghouti's brief courtroom appearance, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with a senior Palestinian delegation, led by negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Israel agreed to release an additional $14 million in Palestinian tax revenues money Israel has frozen since the Intifada began, almost two years ago.

The two sides remain deadlocked about an Israeli proposal for a phased withdrawal of its troops from Palestinian areas, beginning with the Gaza Strip, if the Palestinians can take over security there.

Israel's defense minister is expected to meet with top Palestinian security officials, later Thursday, to discuss the issue.

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