Retribution Killings Continue
12:19 pm PST, 18 October 2001
Three Palestinians, including a man on Israel's wanted list, have been killed by the explosion of a car they were riding in near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Palestinian officials blame Israel. One report quotes Palestinians as saying an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a rocket at the car; another accuses Israel of planting explosives in the vehicle.
One of those killed was Atef Abayat, who was sought by Israel for the killing of a Jewish settler last month. All three victims were members of a militia associated with the Fatah faction of Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
Their deaths came after Israel promised retribution for Wednesday's assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi. The Palestinian Authority has rejected Israel's ultimatum to hand over the killers of Minister Zeevi, or face the consequences. Israel said it would label the Authority an entity that supports terrorism and act accordingly.
Earlier today, Israel sent tanks into Palestinian-controlled areas around the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Jenin. Three Palestinians were killed during the incursion - two Palestinian security men in Ramallah and a schoolgirl at Jenin. At least four other students and a teacher were wounded by gunfire.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine says it killed Mr. Zeevi, but Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, said he held Palestinian leader Arafat responsible.
Palestinian police have detained at least 11 members of the Popular Front since Mr. Arafat ordered his security forces to hunt down and arrest the killers. Those detained are said to be from the group's political wing.
Meanwhile, Palestinian official, Nabil Abu Irdeneh, says the Authority has uncovered what he called an Israeli plot to assassinate President Arafat and other Palestinian leaders.
The charge came as Israelis paid their last respects to Mr. Zeevi, the first Israeli cabinet minister to be slain by Palestinians since the state of Israel was established 53 years ago. The far-right politician was known for advocating the expulsion of Palestinians from all Israeli-held lands. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine says it killed Minister Zeevi to avenge the Israeli killing of the Front's leader, Abu Ali Mustapha, two months ago.