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Palestinian Militants Apologize for Killing Israeli-Arab Student - 2004-03-20

An armed wing of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction admitted Saturday it had shot and killed an Arab man in Jerusalem, whom it had mistaken for an Israeli. The victim's father has called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to stop the killing of more innocent civilians.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades issued a formal apology for killing a young Israeli Arab student, saying it had wrongly identified him as a Jewish settler.

Members of the group gunned down George Elias Khouri in a drive-by shooting, as he was jogging in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem late Friday.

The organization is a militant wing of Fatah. It said in a statement it would consider Mr. Khouri a martyr like other young Palestinians who have died in a violent uprising against Israel that began more than three years ago.

Mr. Khouri, a 20-year-old student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, died from gunshot wounds after being taken to a hospital. His father, Elias, appealed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to settle their conflict, saying the violence must stop.

Elias Khouri said it is clear that the Palestinian leadership does not have control over militant groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

He received an apology from the group and condolences from officials in the office of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who condemned the attack.

Earlier this week, some Palestinian Cabinet ministers urged Mr. Arafat to rein in the group, but he refused.

Mr. Arafat reportedly told the ministers that he would never send the Palestinian security forces against members of his own political faction.