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Palestinian Group Cancels Participation in Cease-Fire, Kills 1 Israeli - 2002-01-14

Palestinian gunmen have shot and killed one Israeli and wounded another hours after an explosion killed a Palestinian militant in the West Bank. Security sources say Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Israelis near a Jewish settlement close to the West Bank city of Nablus.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the shooting, after announcing it was canceling participation in a cease-fire declared last month by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The organization, an armed faction of Mr. Arafat's Fatah group, said it was retaliating for the death hours earlier of one of its leaders.

Raed Karmi was killed in an explosion near his home in the West Bank town of Tulkarm. Mr. Karmi was wanted in connection with shooting attacks on Israelis, including two restaurant owners from Tel Aviv who were killed a year ago while visiting Tulkarm. He had narrowly escaped death last September when Israeli combat helicopters fired missiles at his car, killing two passengers.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of planting the bomb that killed Mr. Karmi. Clamoring for revenge, Palestinians carried the militant's body through the streets of Tulkarm firing shots into the air.

Without confirming Israeli involvement in the explosion, government spokesman Raanan Gissin said Mr. Karmi was involved in the killing of nine Israelis. Mr. Gissin said, "He had a record, I would say, the largest number of killings in the past few months in the Tulkarm area. He ran an operation, he was the commander of the military arm of Fatah and, as such, was clearly, deeply involved in the major terrorist actions that took place in the past few months there."

Israel has killed dozens of militants since the current Palestinian uprising erupted nearly 16 months ago, saying such operations are designed to stop terrorist attacks.

Israel's policy of targeting militants, called assassinations by the Palestinians, has been condemned by the United States and other countries.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says the government has decided to stop demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza, because the operations were hurting the country's image. The decision came after a stormy public debate over the army's destruction last week of buildings in Gaza, a move international aid organizations say left hundreds of Palestinians homeless.

The ban on demolitions did not apply to Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

On Monday Israel destroyed a number of Palestinian homes in the city the government says were built without proper permits.