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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 15:05 GMT
Leading Palestinian killed in blast
Raed Karmi, second from left
Raed Karmi led a militant group in Tulkarm
Palestinian officials have accused Israel of killing a leading Palestinian militant in an explosion on the West Bank.

Raed Karmi - a member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction - died when a device exploded outside his home in the Palestinian-ruled town of Tulkarm.

He [Mr Karmi] was a terrorist of the deadliest kind

Ephraim Sneh, Israeli minister
If confirmed as an Israeli killing, it would signal a return by Israel to its controversial policy of assassinating wanted Palestinians.

Israel has meanwhile announced that it has decided to stop demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The move follows international criticism and heated debate within Israel over the demolition of dozens of buildings at the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza following an attack by Palestinian militants last week.

Palestinians said the action left scores of families homeless; Israel said most of the buildings were being used as shelter by Palestinian gunmen and weapons smugglers.

"We learned a lesson and reached the conclusion that this method - the damage it causes is greater than the benefit," said Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.


In the latest violence, Palestinian sources said Karmi was lured from the house where he had been hiding in Tulkarm, just moments before the blast.

"The Israelis planted an explosive device near a fence. He [Karmi] received a telephone call from someone asking him to leave the house," one source said.

"As soon as he approached the fence, the device exploded and he was killed. This is a clear assassination planned by the Israelis."

An Israeli security source told the BBC that Israel was behind the attack, but the Israeli army has made no official comment.

After the blast, residents reportedly carried Karmi's body through the streets of Tulkarm, calling for revenge, while gunmen fired into the air.

You [Israel] have opened hell on yourselves. You will be burned by its fire

Al-Aqsa Brigade
The militant Al-Aqsa Brigade - an off-shoot of Mr Arafat's Fatah faction - said it was abandoning a ceasefire declared on 1 January and would avenge Karmi's death.

"The so-called ceasefire is cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.

"You [Israel] have opened hell on yourselves. You will be burned by its fire," it said in a statement.

'Ticking bomb'

Israel had accused Karmi of involvement in the deaths of nine Israelis, including the killing of two Israelis in a restaurant in Tulkarm last year.

Fatah gunmen
The Al Aqsa Brigade has vowed to take revenge
Karmi narrowly escaped being killed last September when Israel launched a rocket attack on a car he was travelling in, killing two passengers.

Karmi, Al-Aqsa Brigade leader in Tulkarm, was high on a list of Palestinian militants Israel has asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest.

Israeli officials said the Palestinian Authority had insisted Karmi was in jail, but it was clear he was not.

Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh said Karmi was planning more attacks.

"A man like this is like a ticking bomb. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," he told Israel army radio.

Controversial killings

Israel has killed dozens of Palestinian militants since the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted in September 2000.

The practice has been condemned by the international community and Israel said it would suspend it after Mr Arafat demanded an end to attacks against Israelis last month.

A three-week fall-off in violence between Israel and the Palestinians was shattered last week when the Islamic militant group Hamas killed four Israeli soldiers in southern Israel, breaking a self-imposed ceasefire.

The last attempted targeted killing by Israel of a Palestinian militant occurred on 10 December, when Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a car carrying a leading member of the radical Islamic Jihad group.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem
"The Israeli army are in no mood fo compromise"
Yasser Arafat's spokesman Marwan Kanafani
"Mr Sharon is continuing his programme of assassination"
Israeli government spokesman Avi Paznerk
"We find this incident rather curious"
See also:

14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Blast hampers US peace drive
14 Jan 02 | Middle East
Europe seeks elusive Mid-East peace
13 Jan 02 | Middle East
Arafat aide proposes demilitarised state
10 Jan 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants abandon truce
10 Jan 02 | Middle East
US ups pressure over arms ship
06 Sep 01 | Middle East
Three dead in West Bank attacks
01 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel's 'assassination policy'
30 Jul 01 | profiles
Fatah: Cornerstone of Arafat's power
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