JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager and wounded a second person during an early morning raid Friday in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinians said, the latest death in a recent flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinian witnesses said Amer Basiouny, 15, was shot when he went up on the roof of his family’s home in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp in Nablus to see what was going on after gunfire erupted in his neighborhood during the pre-dawn Israeli raid.
The Israeli army said troops in the camp shot an armed man and a second person who threw an object, believed to have been a bomb, at the soldiers during the raid.
Residents said Basiouny was not armed. A second person was lightly wounded by shrapnel that flew into his house, the said. There were no reports of a second person being shot, they said.
The raid came amid a surge in violence in recent days as Palestinian militants waged stabbing and shooting attacks on Israelis and Israeli troops intensified raids searching for militants.
Israel began a series of raids against Palestinian militants in the northern West Bank after the militant Hamas group won the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliament elections. Israel has also worked to internationally isolate Hamas in an effort to force the group to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Several countries have ignored the Israeli efforts and invited Hamas leaders for visits even though the group has refused to change its violent ideology.
In a CNN interview broadcast early Friday, incoming Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh did not deny that the long-range Hamas goal is to take over Israel after the West Bank and Gaza and repeated his offer of a long-term cease-fire if Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank and frees Palestinian prisoners.
If Israel makes an offer, “we will study it,” he said.
On Thursday, South Africa joined Russia in inviting Hamas leaders to visit, a move Israel criticized. “We would be concerned that giving legitimacy to an unreformed Hamas could stifle the possibility that the movement will transform itself from a terrorist organization to a political party,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
In Washington, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, supported the Israeli view. “The United States is not going to meet with a terror group,” he said. Other countries are free to make their own decisions, he said, but they should make clear to Hamas that its actions are unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said al-Qaeda is trying to establish a presence in the West Bank and Gaza, and he has ordered his security forces to prevent it.
Abbas spoke Thursday after meeting Amir Peretz, head of Israel’s moderate Labor Party, less than a month before Israeli elections.
“We have information, yet to be confirmed, that al-Qaeda, just as it sends its operatives to Jordan and other countries like Saudi Arabia … also might send us operatives for sabotage (acts),” Abbas said.
“We must be alert, and all our security forces are trying with all means to prevent their arrival here, or their carrying out any sabotage acts in this region,” Abbas said, backtracking from a report in the London-based Al Hayat newspaper quoting him as saying al-Qaeda already had a presence in the Palestinian areas.
The Abbas-Peretz meeting took place at the Allenby Bridge, the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. Polls showed Labor lagging behind the centrist Kadima Party of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Perceived as strong on economic issues, but inexperienced in diplomacy, Peretz has met in recent weeks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Moroccan King Mohammed VI to try to cast himself as a statesman.
Peretz said Friday it is important to strengthen ties with the moderate Abbas, known by his nickname Abu Mazen, in order to weaken extremists.
“What is the alternative, to push Abu Mazen into the arms of Hamas? To say that we see all Palestinians as extremists whose aim is our destruction?” he told Israel’s Army Radio.
By contrast, Olmert’s government has distanced itself from Abbas since Hamas election victory.