Palestinians gathering around an IDF officer's car on Mon. which was torched after he entered in the West Bank town of Jenin. (AP)
Last update - 21:21 27/08/2007
Livni: Rescue of IDF major proves PA's strength
By Avi Issacharoff, and Amos Harel Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday praised the Palestinian Authority for rescuing an Israel Defense Forces officer who inadvertently entered the West Bank city of Jenin. "This operation proves that the Palestinian government and its forces are growing stronger in the field relative to the terrorist organizations," Livni said, during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad. Livni stressed that the rescue of the IDF officer is an example of how security deterioration can be prevented, and how Israel and the Palestinians can avoid harm to both sides.
Livni and Fayad also discussed regional developments, including the Middle East summit scheduled to take place in the fall. The pair agreed on renewing the activity of currently defunct joint Israeli-PA committees on economic and environmental issues. The PA security forces engaged in a gun battle with Islamic Jihad militants Monday, in order to protect the IDF major who accidentally drove into the West Bank city of Jenin. The major was evacuated from the area unharmed, and handed over to the IDF. In October 2000, shortly after the start of the Second Intifada, two IDF reservists were killed by a Palestinian mob who lynched them after they entered Ramallah by mistake. The incident began Monday when a PA policeman noticed the officer, who was in uniform, driving in central Jenin. The policeman stopped him and called additional security forces to the scene. In the meantime, a crowd gathered in the area, and tried to assault the IDF officer. PA police evacuated him from the area, and took him to the PA security forces' headquarters in Jenin. Islamic Jihad militants then opened fire on the headquarters, sparking a gun battle with PA security forces. Local residents torched the major's car, which was left behind when he was evacuated to the security headquarters. An initial IDF inquiry into the incident found that the officer's near fatal error was due to his having violated a series of army safety procedures. The inquiry noted that the officer drove alone on the road from the West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron to that of Mevo Dotan. Army regulations, however, demand that personnel traveling there do so in a convoy and in bullet-proof vehicles. Apparently the IDF soldiers at the Shavei Shomron checkpoint did not stop the officer, as he told them he had permission for his journey. At the following junction, where the IDF does not have a permanent checkpoint, the officer should have turned left and driven westward - while in fact he continued straight ahead. It is not known whether the officer was armed at the time. Palestinian sources claim the mob that surrounded him took his handgun, though the officer himself argues that he had no weapon on him, despite regulations requiring him to have one. The IDF's Central Command was to launch a more comprehensive probe on Monday night. IDF sources said the officer will most likely be given a disciplinary hearing in an army court for the incident. Also Monday, IDF troops shot and killed a Palestinian near the security fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the army and Gaza medical staff said. The middle-aged Palestinian was found, unarmed, in a no-man's land along the fence south of the Karni border crossing with Israel, Palestinian doctors said. Palestinian sources identified him as Farid Abu Zaher, a 43-year-old farmer. The IDF said, however, that troops suspected the man had tried to lay an explosive and saw him climbing the fence. When the man saw the troops, he jumped off the fence and began to flee. The soldiers fired at him and saw he was hit. The soldiers did not know if he was armed, the military said. Palestinian militants frequently lay explosives against patrolling troops in the area, the army said. Incidents of unarmed Palestinians approaching the fence have increased since Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip in June. On Sunday, six Palestinians apparently looking for work tried to cross the fence into Israel, but were caught and detained by the IDF. Israel has virtually sealed off Gaza since the Hamas takeover, allowing through only essential supplies, and allowing in only a few Gazans, including people requiring specialized medical treatment and several dozen Palestinians with work and study permits abroad. Israel withdrew in 2005 from the Gaza Strip, where 1.4 million Palestinians live. Earlier Monday, Israel Air Force aircraft fired a missile at a rocket launcher in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Palestinian witnesses said that the missile destroyed the targeted launcher. They added that no one had been injured in the strike. The IDF confirmed they had carried out an airstrike. The Islamic Jihad militant group said it fired a rocket toward Israel from the area. No injuries or damage were reported in Israel. Earlier Monday, an armed Palestinian man opened fire at IDF troops in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp in Nablus. The troops returned fire and hit the armed man. The militant's condition was not immediately clear. On Sunday, Gaza militants fired three Qassam rockets toward Israel. All three landed in open areas in the western Negev, causing no injuries or damage. Shots were also fired toward an IDF post near kibbutz Nahal Oz on Sunday. Also Sunday, IDF sappers detonated an explosive device uncovered near kibbutz Kerem Shalom.