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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Israelis kill Hebron militant chief
Israeli soldiers carry away Mohammed Seder's body
Israeli soldiers carry away Mohammed Seder's body

Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian militant leader who was holed up in a house in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The militant was named as Mohammed Seder, the local head of Islamic Jihad's armed wing.

Witnesses said Israeli troops first surrounded a building in search of Mr Seder, and a gun battle then ensued, involving explosions.

A senior Islamic Jihad official told the AFP news agency that Mr Seder was killed in the attack and vowed to avenge his death.

"This is a major crime and the Israeli army will pay the price for it in its soldiers and settlers," he said.

Ceasefire under strain

A grenade was hurled at the Israeli forces from the house in Hebron, and they responded by firing anti-tank missiles at the building, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported, quoting military sources.

The Israeli military said Mr Seder had been preparing a car bomb.

The incident places further strain on the cease-fire that has been in place since June.

Without a firm stand from the US the ceasefire is finished
Saeb Erekat
The Israeli army has scaled down operations against militants since armed Palestinian factions declared a truce at the end of June.

But Israel has always made clear that it will seek out anyone seen as an immediate threat.

Israel said that Mr Seder was responsible for the deaths of 19 Israelis.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz described him as a "ticking bomb".

He said Israel would continue to make every effort to support the political process although the Palestinians were not doing enough to disband "terrorist infrastructures".

'Aiming to destroy peace'

Nabil Abu Rudeina, an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said the attack seemed to be intended to end the truce.

"The aim of the attack is to destroy the international (peace) efforts and especially the ceasefire," he told AFP news agency.

Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat called on the United States to intervene quickly to rescue the cease-fire.

"Without a firm stand from the United States that the two sides live up to their obligations with one grand gesture - the cease-fire is finished," he said.

The truce is critical to the implementation of the US-backed peace plan, known as the roadmap.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli troops demolished the Nablus home of Islam Qteishat, who is thought to have carried out a suicide bombing in the Israeli settlement of Ariel on Tuesday.

A gun battle erupted during a similar Israeli operation in the West Bank town of Nablus last week. Two Hamas members were killed and Hamas said Tuesday's bombing was its response to that raid.

The BBC's James Rodgers reports from Jerusalem
"Fires broke out after shooting and explosions"

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