Navy commando killed, as counter-terrorist actions continue

Following the completion of Operation Defensive Shield, Israeli security forces continued counter-terrorist actions in Palestinian-controlled territories. The Tanzim military commander in Hebron was killed Monday night when missiles were fired at his car. Earlier, Navy commando Sgt.-Maj. Nir Kritzman, 22, of Hadera, was killed when gunmen opened fire on an army patrol searching for terrorists north of Nablus.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters that Israel had completed "this stage of Operation Defensive Shield," but added that "the struggle against terrorism will continue, using different means." Israeli troops completed their withdrawal from Nablus and from most neighborhoods of Ramallah, but maintained a siege on Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat's Mukata compound there and on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Israeli and Palestinian officials are set to hold their first talks Tuesday to broker a compromise over the fate of the armed gunmen holed up inside the church. Palestinians had previously canceled negotiations several times. Conditions inside the church for the clergy and civilians there were "getting steadily worse," said Canon Andrew White, an envoy sent by the Anglican Church.

Palestinian security forces were unable to take control of Palestinian cities following the Israeli withdrawals. In Ramallah, masked men murdered Ibrahim Abdu, 25, in a central square as hundreds of citizens looked on. Two other Palestinians, also accused of collaborating with Israel, were seriously injured by the mob. No policemen were reported in the vicinity. Three more alleged collaborators with Israel were found shot to death in Hebron this morning.

West Bank Preventive Security Chief Jibril Rajoub said Monday that the Palestinian Authority would not resume security cooperation with Israel after the IDF trashed his headquarters in Beituniya, near Ramallah. Rajoub, considered a Palestinian moderate, vowed to rebuild his security force.

Shalhevet Pass's killer targeted in Hebron

Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at a car in central Hebron late Monday night, killing Marwan Zaloum, 43, commander of the Fatah-Tanzim al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the city, and his bodyguard, Samir Abu Rageb. According to military sources, Zaloum was responsible for the killing of infant Shalhevet Pass by sniper fire in Hebron in March 2001, and for sending the woman suicide bomber who detonated herself outside the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem two weeks ago, killing six people. Rageb, a member of Force 17, was considered an expert bomb-maker.

Zaloum and other members of his organization were responsible for numerous other shooting attacks and bombings in the Hebron area, the IDF Spokesperson said. Zaloum reportedly operated under the authority of Biab Sharabathi, chairman of the Tanzim in Hebron, with the approval of senior Palestinian Authority officials.

In overnight actions, IDF forces arrested 21 Palestinians suspected of involvement in terror activities in the Bethlehem and Hebron region. Security forces were active in the villages of Surif, Husan, el-Khader and Yatta, all located in Palestinian-controlled territories. Yesterday, police and soldiers arrested 17 Palestinians in Hizma and the Dehaishe refugee camp, near Bethlehem. Also in Dehaishe, security forces arrested an 18-year-old woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing.

Karine A commando killed near Nablus

Sgt.-Maj. Nir Kritzman, a member of the elite Navy commando unit, was killed as soldiers searched for terrorists who had escaped from Nablus near the village of Asira a-Shamilya. As the army patrol reached a road intersection, terrorist gunmen opened fire at close range and Kritzman was mortally wounded.

Soldiers charged the source of the gunfire and killed the two Palestinians, identified as Hamas militants Taher Nasser, 28, and Iyad Hamdan, 22. Both men had worked closely with senior Hamas commander Mahmud Abu Hanoud, who was killed by the IDF six months ago. The two were said to be responsible for the bombing attack on a bus near Emmanuel in December, in which 10 Israelis were killed, and for the terrorist infiltrations into Hamra and Elon Moreh, as well as several other terror attacks.

"He always knew to laugh and give his all," a childhood friend of Kritzman said. "A smart kid and a charming person who loved the sea and dreamed of being a naval commando." Kritzman, who was due to finish his army service in three months, had participated in many special commando missions. In December, he served in the elite unit that captured the Karine A weapons ship in the Red Sea.

Ellis Shuman Israelinsider

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