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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Killings shake Mid-East security deal
Bethlehem on Tuesday
Bethlehem tastes its first day back under Palestinian control
Israeli forces have shot dead the brother of a radical Palestinian leader in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The killing comes amid sporadic violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, following the Israeli pullout from Bethlehem - the first step of a "confidence-building" security deal with the Palestinians.

Two other Palestinian were also killed on Tuesday - a teenager shot dead by soldiers guarding the isolated Morag settlement in southern Gaza and a gunmen killed during an army raid on Tulkarm in the West Bank.

Salmah Zerob, grandmother of slain teenager Ayman faints when she sees his corpse at Gaza hospital
A woman's grief for her grandson killed in Gaza on Tuesday
And an Israeli soldier guarding the settlement of Gadid in the southern Gaza Strip was killed during a long exchange of fire between the army and Palestinian gunmen.

Israeli security officials confirmed that troops killed Mohammed Saadat, brother of Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was shot dead after the Israeli special forces entered his home in the centre of Ramallah, according to Palestinian sources.

His brother Ahmed has been under Palestinian detention since May, as part of a deal that ended the Israeli siege of the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The bloodshed in Gaza could undermine the security deal under which Israel pledged to ease its clampdown on the Strip after restoring Palestinian security control in Bethlehem.

Jewish settlers are trying to pressurise the Israeli government not to lessen restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza, saying it would compromise their security.

Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority has pledged to prevent militant attacks against Israel, but many Palestinian oppose the deal which they see as a sign of submission to Ariel Sharon's government.

'Encouraging step'

Palestinian police took control of the streets of Bethlehem overnight after Israeli forces withdrew under a deal that marked the first sign of progress between the sides in months of escalated conflict.

But Israeli forces tightened their blockade around the town, and have remained in positions on the edge of Bethlehem where they were stationed throughout the recent reoccupation.

Israeli soldiers level the centre of Bethlehem
The pullout was the first sign of progress to ending month's of bloodshed
An Israeli spokesman said soldiers and armoured vehicles would stay put while the sides worked out further steps of the process.

BBC correspondent James Reynolds says there is no great celebration in Bethlehem and few people believe the deal will last.

But the United States has welcomed developments, saying the agreement was an "encouraging" step towards resuming other peacemaking moves.

As the troops were withdrawn from the streets of Bethlehem, others raided the refugee camp in Tulkarm in the northern West Bank, and the autonomous town of Dura, near Hebron in the south.

Palestinian witnesses said dozens of people were arrested in Dura while Israeli army radio reported 15 arrests in Tulkarm, which has been under almost constant curfew in recent weeks.

Militant warning

Gaza residents seen through the gate of a UN clinic
Gazans have yet to see an easing of restrictions
The security deal, struck on Sunday, has been rejected by key Palestinian elements, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even from within Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, whose members said it was a poor substitute for full Israeli withdrawal.

The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing of the soldier on Tuesday, saying it was to retaliate for the killing of one of its members last week.

In a separate development, Palestinian preventative security forces said they had arrested a suspected collaborator with Israel, whom they suspected of assisting in the assassination of Hamas military chief Salah Shehada in July.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"The Palestinian police are technically back in control"
Khalil Shikaki, Palestinian Researcher
"The Palestinians are accepting the withdrawal because they are constrained"

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