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Senior Islamic Jihad Member Shot Dead in Israel - 2002-11-09

Israeli forces Saturday shot dead a senior member of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

Israeli forces killed Iyad Sawalhe in a dawn raid at a house in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Troops surrounded his hideout and ordered him to give himself up peacefully.

The Israeli army says he responded by hurling a grenade, injuring a number of soldiers.

In the ensuing gun battle, which lasted about an hour, he was shot dead. Palestinian hospital officials confirmed the death.

Mr. Sawalhe was the head of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in the northern West Bank. He was suspected of masterminding a number of major terror attacks against Israelis.

Israel holds him responsible for organizing at least two suicide bombings this year that left at least 31 Israelis dead and 89 wounded.

Both involved using vehicles packed with explosives against commuter buses.

There are now fears that the Islamic Jihad, which is dedicated to Israel's destruction, will carry out more killings to avenge the death of Mr. Sawalhe.

His death comes on the eve of a visit by senior State Department official David Satterfield, who is hoping to renew efforts to promote a new international peace plan, which envisages the founding of a Palestinian homeland with temporary borders by the end of next year.

Under the blueprint, which has been described as a roadmap for peace, a fully independent Palestinian state would be established with the signing of a final treaty with Israel, a few years later.

The plan, which is endorsed by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, calls for reform of the Palestinian Authority and a pullback of Israeli troops from Palestinian self-rule areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.