Israel to continue killing activists

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s army chief told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that the military will keep up its deadly hunt for members of Islamic Jihad, despite threats by the Palestinian group to retaliate with suicide bombings.
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz told the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee that the Israeli policy of “targeted killings” has been effective at curbing attacks against Israel, the panel’s chairman said. The chairman, Yuval Steinitz, said the Israeli attacks would be focused against Islamic Jihad.

Hours after the comments, Israeli troops shot an Islamic Jihad operative in the West Bank, moderately wounding the man, Palestinian officials said. Troops also shot and killed a Palestinian youth in a separate operation.

Halutz, a former air force chief, is one of the main architects of the targeted killings. The pinpoint air strikes have killed dozens of fighters during five years of fighting, but numerous bystanders also have died.

The killings have sparked widespread international condemnation.

Halutz’s comments threatened to undermine an already shaky truce between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel suspended the killings after the February ceasefire declaration, but resumed them several months ago during a flare-up in violence.

Islamic Jihad has carried out the most violent attacks against Israel since the cease-fire declaration, including a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis last month.

Islamic Jihad maintains its attacks are carried out in retaliation for perceived Israeli truce violations.

Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in the Gaza Strip, said the group was not scared by Halutz’s comments.

“This is not new. Israel has not stopped its murderous crimes, not only against Islamic Jihad but against all the Palestinians,” he said. “We fear God only and don’t fear from such statement.” In its hunt for activists, Israeli troops also have arrested hundreds of people in the West Bank in recent weeks, in many cases leading to deadly gunbattles.

Troops shot an Islamic Jihad activist in the back on Tuesday night in the West Bank village of Tubas, moderately wounding him, Palestinian security and medical officials said. The officials said details of the shooting weren’t known, and the Israeli army had no immediate comment.

In the nearby city of Nablus, a 16-year-old boy was killed and a 10-year-old boy wounded during a separate army operation, Palestinian doctors and witnesses said.

The army said troops opened fire on four Palestinian fighters who were trying to plant a large roadside bomb.

Three Palestinians were hit by the shots, the army said.

Residents and medical officials said the dead teenager was not affiliated with any group, and that the 10-year-old boy was shot while he was in a nearby house.

In other developments, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh Party decided to hold its first-ever primary between November 18-20. But Abbas and other leaders retained final say over the list of candidates for January parliament elections.

The decision to give Abbas the last word angered some younger Fateh activists who had been pushing for a bigger role in the party, and said Tuesday they fear they will be shut out by Fateh old-timers.

Under an arrangement approved Monday by Fateh leaders, 264 candidates will be chosen in the primary, or double the number of seats in parliament. Abbas and other Fateh leaders will then choose 132 candidates from that group for the parliament slate.

Amin Makboul, a member of the Fateh Revolutionary Council, a key decision-making body, said Fateh leaders decided to retain the final say in putting together the list because of growing concern about irregularities in registration for the primary.

However, Fateh legislator Kadoura Fares, a member of the “young guard,” said he fears the older Fateh politicians are trying to keep out the newcomers. “What they are doing is they are killing democracy and the primaries,” Fares said.

Fateh’s main political rival, the Islamic Hamas, is putting together its list secretly, in part because of fear of arrest. In recent weeks, dozens of potential Hamas candidates, both for parliament and local councils, have been rounded up in an Israeli arrest sweep.

Hamas is expected to make a strong showing with a platform pledging more efficient government and an end to corruption.

In Nablus, Hamas released a list of 15 candidates for an upcoming city council election. The December 28 vote is expected to be an indicator of the group’s showing in the parliamentary vote.

The candidates included prominent doctors, engineers and businessmen as well as three women, and none of them are known to be activists.

“We are participating in elections to change the awful situation in the cities, and in the Palestinian Authority,” said Yasser Mansour, a Hamas spokesman.

“These are respected people. They have clean hands. That’s what the city government needs.” Mansour said the group decided not to run any imprisoned candidates for the local election. He also said that some potential candidates had refused invitations to run, fearing Israeli arrest.

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