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At Least 2 Palestinians Killed by Israelis - 2001-10-18

At least two Palestinians have been killed as Israeli forces entered areas of the West Bank the day after an Israeli cabinet minister was assassinated.

Israeli tanks and troops entered Palestinian-ruled areas around the West Bank cities of Jenin and Ramallah.

Palestinian security officials say a schoolgirl was killed by Israeli tank fire in Jenin and a Palestinian policeman was killed as tanks and bulldozers pushed into the outskirts of Ramallah.

Israeli soldiers also imposed a curfew on Arab communities in the Jerusalem suburbs.

The raids came as Israel issued an ultimatum, demanding the Palestinians hand over the gunmen responsible for killing Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on Wednesday.

Mr. Zeevi was assassinated in a Jerusalem hotel, the first time Palestinians have killed an Israeli cabinet minister.

The radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the killing. The PFLP says the shooting was in response for the targeted killing of its leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, by the Israeli military earlier this year. The group says several of its members have been arrested by Palestinian security forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is responsible for the assassination. Palestinian officials have rejected those charges and condemned the killing.

Israel is also demanding that several militant groups operating in Palestinian areas be disarmed and dismantled.

A statement released by the Israeli cabinet says if Mr. Arafat does not meet the demands, "Israel will have no choice but to declare the Palestinian Authority an entity that supports terrorism and act accordingly."

The slain Israeli politician was known for his hard-line positions against the Palestinians. The 75 year-old tourism minister had called for expelling Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Zeevi, who is survived by his wife and five children, was a retired army general who fought in three wars for Israel.