MORE PALESTINIANS KILLED – as America and Israel pressure PNA to disarm

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WHILE the US was piling the pressure on Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to force the Palestine National Authority to disarm all the anti-occupation groups, the armed-to-the-teeth Israeli Occupation Forces were shooting more Palestinians dead.

The Israeli regime is also obstructing the arming of the PNA police at the same time as it continues the killing, with not so much as a peep of protest from Washington.

Early on Sunday, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot a Palestinian dead in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, claiming he had tried to launch a stabbing attack on an Israeli soldier.

The victim, who has yet to be identified, was hit by eight bullets and left bleeding to death, eyewitnesses said.

The Israelis claimed: ‘The IOF called for him to stop several times and fired warning shots in the air. He continued moving towards the force. He said his intention was to kill them.’

But the eyewitnesses were adamant that the Israeli troops could have neutralised the alleged attacker by wounding him, but deliberately chose to kill him instead.

Last Saturday, the illegal Zionist settlers rioted in the heart of the old town of Hebron, attacking Palestinian children and overturning vegetable and fruit stands in full view of the IOF troops.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said the settlers were armed with automatic rifles.

At one point, the settlers attacked a young girl, identified as Khitam al Muhtasib, pulling her hair and savagely beating her. The girl was hospitalised.

Meanwhile, in northern West Bank, 18-year old Palestinian Mohammad Mustafa el-Haj Mohammad died overnight Sunday of wounds sustained from Israeli heavy machine gun fire on a civilian car near the town of Arraba, south of Jenin.

IOF soldiers, guarding the nearby illegal Zionist colony of Newe Dotan opened up ‘sporadically’ on the car which was travelling back home to Arraba.

Eyewitnesses said the IOF troops then denied access to ambulances, which led to Mohammad’s death.

An IOF spokesman claimed that ‘three Palestinians opened fire from a car on an army position situated close to Newe Dotan.

‘IOF soldiers responded by firing towards the men, who were arrested and then taken to a hospital in Israel’ the spokesman added.

Further south last Friday, 56 years-old Azzam Sowwan, who was suffering a heart attack, was immediately transferred to the National Hospital in Nablus for emergency treatment from his village of Amateen.

But the IOF military roadblock at ‘Beit Iba’ stopped the taxi he was travelling in and one of the soldiers told his nephew Ashraf, who was escorting him: ‘tell him to die away from us.’

The taxi driver told reporters the IOF soldiers assaulted and beat him. ‘I told the soldiers I had a man seriously ill but they told me let him die.’

Sowwan died during the following 40 minutes, Ashraf said.

Dozens of Palestinians, including women in labour, have died at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks in the past few years as a result of being denied access to hospital.

On the same day in the northern town of Beit Lahya in the Gaza Strip Baker Hammouda, 22, was killed in a ‘suspicious explosion’ while two others were wounded.

These four deaths raised the Palestinian death toll to more than 3,856 since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada against the 37-year old Israeli occupation on September 28, 2000.

Meanwhile, the Israeli regime continues to obstruct any arming of the Palestine National Authority police.

Last Saturday, the PNA announced it was recruiting 5,000 more men for its security forces to safeguard law and order in the Gaza Strip – which Israel plans to evacuate this summer.

But PNA Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khousa warned the recruits will not be able to carry out their mission properly because they will be unarmed, owing to Israeli restrictions on the number of weapons Palestinian security forces can carry.

Abu Khousa urged Israel to let other countries supply the PNA with additional weapons, as they have offered to do, if it wants maximum security in the coastal strip after its intended withdrawal, probably in mid August.

The recruits, aged 18 to 22, will begin 45 days of training as soon as next month, he said. Some 16,000 Palestinian security personnel already operate in Gaza.

After his summit with US president George W Bush in Washington last Thursday, Palestinian president Abbas pledged to ‘facilitate the Israeli unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza.’

And Bush ‘reiterated his commitment to the UN-adopted “roadmap” peace plan.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he wants to coordinate the pullout with the PNA.

On Saturday, the Bush administration expanded the authority of its security coordinator, General William Ward, and gave him the additional role of security mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians in the wake of disengagement.

It was reported in the American media that US officials had informed Abbas of their decision.

Until now, Ward’s mission has been to help the PNA establish its security departments.

A high-level meeting between Palestinian Minister of Interior Nassr Yousef and Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister Shaul Mofaz on Monday on coordinating the intended Israeli withdrawal ended without agreement.

Bush, who on Thursday urged Israel to withdraw its IOF to their pre-September 2000 positions, asked Abbas during their White House summit to disarm anti-occupation activists who are ‘wanted’ by the IOF and promised him a bonus: to demand that Ariel Sharon dismantle all the ‘unauthorised’ settlement outposts in the West Bank immediately after the disengagement – an overdue Israeli obligation.

Separately, the Israeli cabinet met on Sunday to decide on the release of another 400 Palestinian detainees, as Palestinians staged demonstrations in Hebron to demand their release.

The mainly female demonstrators gathered in the centre of Hebron carrying banners which read: ‘The prisoners are our honour,’ ‘Free the prisoners,’ and ‘400 freed prisoners is not enough!’

Israeli radio reported that none of the detainees likely to be freed was ‘a killer,’ and that most had already served two-thirds of their sentences.

General Amos Gilad, advisor to Shaul Mofaz, vowed that those accused of orchestrating the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi will not be released.

500 detainees were released soon after the February 8th peace summit between Abbas and Sharon in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Sharon then promised to free 900 detainees.

The release of another 400 Palestinians is another overdue Israeli obligation according to the Sharm El Sheikh ‘understandings.’