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Arafat's Fatah Faction to Continue Observing Cease-Fire - 2002-01-15

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction says it will continue to observe a cease-fire despite the death of a militant in an explosion in the West Bank.

A Fatah leader in the West Bank, Hussein al-Sheik, says the largest Palestinian group will stick to the truce with Israel, despite calls for revenge after the death of a militant in the West Bank town of Tulkarm.

Raed Karmi, a leader in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed faction of Fatah, was killed in an explosion Monday.

Palestinians blame Israel for his death saying it was a targeted assassination.

Hours after the blast, members of the Al-Aqsa Brigade killed one Israeli soldier and wounded another near Tulkarm.

Thousands of Palestinians attended Mr. Karmi's funeral, calling for renewed attacks on Israelis.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says the militant was killed in a "work accident," suggesting he died while handling explosives.

The defense minister says Mr. Karmi was involved in the murder of a number of Israelis, and was planning new attacks when he died.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo blamed the new violence on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He says, however, Palestinians should continue to respect the truce announced last month by Chairman Yasser Arafat. "Well Sharon broke the cease-fire," he said. "He is responsible for all the consequences. On our part we had issued orders that everybody should respect the commitments of the Palestinian Authority that there should be a cease-fire and there should not be any retaliation."

On Tuesday, the body of an Israeli man was found in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahur, near Bethlehem.

The man, who had been shot repeatedly, was a contractor who apparently entered the West Bank to purchase building supplies.

Israelis are banned from visiting the West Bank, but reports say the man used a U.S. passport to pass through an Israeli checkpoint.