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2 shot during Jewish New Year celebration

By Associated Press
Published September 27, 2003

JERUSALEM - A Palestinian gunman broke into a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Friday and opened fire in a home where a family was marking the Jewish New Year, killing a man and a baby girl and shattering Israel's efforts to maintain calm over the holiday.

The attacker was shot and killed by soldiers guarding the settlement, said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman. Two other Israelis also were wounded in the attack on Negahot, near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Israel has accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of encouraging terror attacks, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview published Friday he was determined to "remove" Arafat one day, even at the risk of harming him.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's attack.

The attack began about 9 p.m. when a Palestinian armed with an M-16 rifle infiltrated the isolated settlement, Dallal said. The man knocked on the door of one house and fatally shot a guest, a 30-year-old man, who answered the door.

A young girl also was shot and her parents were slightly wounded, he said. The girl's age was not given.

"It's no coincidence that this attack was planned for this hour, the night of the Jewish New Year," Dallal said. "Clearly, the people behind the attack knew they could find families at home during the holiday dinner."

Several attacks have been carried out during Jewish holidays in the past three years, most notably the March 27, 2002, suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in the northern coastal town of Netanya that killed 29 people participating in the ritual Passover meal.

In an effort to prevent possible attacks over the holiday, the Israeli military tightened a Palestinian travel ban in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All Palestinians were banned from entering Israel, and Palestinians in most of the West Bank were barred from leaving their communities.

Israel has received more than 40 warnings about possible terror attacks over the two-day New Year's holiday, which began Friday evening, government spokesman Avi Pazner said.

The fate of Arafat, who is holed up in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, was thrown into question Sept. 11, when Israel's security Cabinet called for his removal.

Sharon told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that the security Cabinet's decision canceled a promise he made to President Bush several years ago not to physically harm the Palestinian leader.

"Bush asked me not to harm him physically and I promised. . . . The Cabinet decision is a kind of cancellation of the promise," Sharon said. "You have to keep in mind that it is very difficult to ensure that he (Arafat) won't be harmed if we seize him."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sharon's comments proved Israel was trying to kill Arafat and was not committed to implementing the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

"It's no longer a matter of whether they will kill President Arafat, it's a matter of when," Erekat said.

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