Israeli military troops shoot and kill Palestinian teenager during West Bank raid

Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager and wounded a second person during an early morning raid Friday in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinians said, the latest death in a recent flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian witnesses said Amer Basiouny, 15, was shot when he went up on the roof of his family's home in the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp in Nablus to see what was going on after gunfire erupted in his neighborhood during the pre-dawn Israeli raid.

The Israeli army said troops in the camp shot an armed man and a second person who threw an object, believed to have been a bomb, at the soldiers during the raid.

Residents said Basiouny was not armed. A second person was lightly wounded by shrapnel that flew into his house, the said. There were no reports of a second person being shot, they said.

The raid came amid a surge in violence in recent days as Palestinian militants waged stabbing and shooting attacks on Israelis and Israeli troops intensified raids searching for militants.

Israel began a series of raids against Palestinian militants in the northern West Bank after the militant Hamas group won the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliament elections.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Friday that Israel was taking action to prevent militant attacks on Israel.

"We have been pursuing all the ticking time bombs, which in recent weeks have stopped ticking because we prevented their activities," he told a meeting of his Kadima Party.

Israel has also worked to internationally isolate Hamas and many countries, including the European Union and the United States, have insisted the group renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist before it can be accepted by the international community.

Russia is the most prominent country to ignore the Israeli efforts and invite Hamas leaders to visit even though the group has refused to change its violent ideology.

"The issue of recognition (of Israel) is a decided issue," Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal said Friday at the start of a three-day visit to Moscow. "We don't intend to recognize Israel."

Russian officials said they hoped to use the visit to persuade Hamas to change its stance, a possibility Hamas leaders ruled out.

In a CNN interview broadcast early Friday, incoming Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh did not deny that the long-range Hamas goal is to take over Israel after the West Bank and Gaza and repeated his offer of a long-term cease-fire if Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank and frees Palestinian prisoners.

If Israel makes an offer, "we will study it," he said.

On Thursday, South Africa joined Russia in inviting Hamas leaders to visit.

Olmert said the international community must maintain a united policy toward Hamas.

"We have to retain the international front that Israel has built up over the principles we have set out," he said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said al-Qaida is trying to establish a presence in the West Bank and Gaza, and he has ordered his security forces to prevent it.

Abbas spoke Thursday after meeting Amir Peretz, head of Israel's moderate Labor Party, less than a month before Israeli elections.

"We have information, yet to be confirmed, that al-Qaida, just as it sends its operatives to Jordan and other countries like Saudi Arabia ... also might send us operatives for sabotage (acts)," Abbas said.

"We must be alert, and all our security forces are trying with all means to prevent their arrival here, or their carrying out any sabotage acts in this region," Abbas said, backtracking from a report in the London-based Al Hayat newspaper quoting him as saying al-Qaida already had a presence in the Palestinian areas.

The Abbas-Peretz meeting took place at the Allenby Bridge, the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

Polls showed Labor lagging behind the centrist Kadima Party.

Perceived as strong on economic issues, but inexperienced in diplomacy, Peretz has met in recent weeks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Moroccan King Mohammed VI to try to cast himself as a statesman.

Peretz said Friday it is important to strengthen ties with the moderate Abbas, known by his nickname Abu Mazen, in order to weaken extremists.

"What is the alternative, to push Abu Mazen into the arms of Hamas? To say that we see all Palestinians as extremists whose aim is our destruction?" he told Israel's Army Radio.

By contrast, Olmert's government has distanced itself from Abbas since Hamas election victory reports the AP.

D.M.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team