TEL AVIV - Palestinian terrorists killed an Israeli man in the West Bank on Monday despite a de facto truce by armed groups and amid a flare-up of violence that has raged ahead of a planned Israeli pullout from Gaza this summer and a summit between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Islamic Jihad gunmen opened fire on the vehicle driving near the Palestinian village of Baqa al-Sharqiya, killing 27-year-old Yevgeny Raider. Zeidan, 16, who was also lightly wounded in the attack, said the gunmen blocked the road with their vehicle and started shooting.
"Yevgeny shielded me with his body to ensure I wouldn't be hurt and then I saw he was injured himself," he said. "The car started to slow down, so I pushed the gas pedal with my foot and held the wheel to keep it moving."
Islamic Jihad, which has spearheaded a campaign of anti-Israeli attacks during a four-year-old Palestinian uprising, said it was still committed to a "period of calm" it had announced with other terrorist groups in March.
Violence has increased in recent months ahead of a planned Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip this summer.
IDF troops apprehended a female suicide bomber in Gaza who security sources said had planned to blow herself up at an Israeli hospital in the town of Beersheva.
Palestinian terrorists shot dead an IDF soldier on the Egypt-Gaza border on Sunday after troops killed a gunman in response to anti-tank missile attacks. Terrorists have also boosted their mortar bombs and rocket attacks against settlements and Israeli targets inside and around the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian source: We must exercise stronger hand
A Palestinian security source told Ynet that gunmen use such attacks as an excuse to torpedo understandings Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas reached at a summit in February, which included a cease-fire to end more than four years of fighting.
”The attack proved we must exercise a stronger hand against the factions, especially those who do not see themselves committed to the calm despite having declaring so,” the security source said, adding that Palestinians should avoid "irresponsible" actions against Israeli "provocations" in the Palestinian territories.
Sharon and Abbas are due to hold their second joint summit on Tuesday to discuss coordination on Israel's pullout from all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four of 120 in the West Bank.
The Yesha settler council, which opposes the withdrawal and has called on right-wingers to resist it, said the West Bank shooting "symbolized the start of a pullout under fire."
Islamic Jihad terror
Following the shooting, the IDF imposed a curfew on Baqa al-Sharqiya while soldiers scoured the area in search of the terrorists.
The terrorists had apparently arrived from the Palestinian village of Seida, military sources said, adding that a terror cell belonging to Islamic Jihad has been active in area villages in recent months.
Israeli and Palestinian officials estimate the terror infrastructure in the area continues to flourish. In recent days, Islamic Jihad terrorists in the region expressed their anger over continued IDF operations and vowed to hit Israeli targets in response to “the continued pursuit of cell members.”