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Palestinian leader arrested; two Israelis killed

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian security forces Tuesday took into custody the leader of a Palestinian group that claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister in October.

The arrest came just hours after two Israelis were killed in the West Bank and Palestinian militants vowed to step up attacks on Israel.

CNN's Mike Hanna reports on the the tension between Palestinians and Israelis following the death of a Fatah leader (January 15)

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Security forces took into custody Ahmed Sa-adat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whom Israeli officials blame for the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi.

Israeli officials had been demanding his arrest as a pre-condition for lifting travel restrictions on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Palestinian security sources confirmed Sa-adat's arrest late Tuesday.

The Israelis have prevented Arafat since early December from leaving his compound in Ramallah until Sa-adat's arrest. He even forbidden from attending Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem.

Settler, motorist killed

Earlier Tuesday, two Israelis were shot and killed in separate incidents in the West Bank.

An Israeli army official said Avi Goaz, 72, an elderly Jewish settler who was also an American citizen, was shot 20 times in the head and chest as he traveled from his home in the Ma'ale Edumin settlement east of Jerusalem to Bethlehem to buy building supplies.

The military wing of Arafat's Fatah movement was believed to be behind the killing, the official said.

Fatah is the mainstream faction and Palestinian nationalist movement of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It is dedicated to the formation of an independent Palestinian state. It also is linked to several splinter groups.

Later in the day, Israeli ambulance officials said that an Israeli woman was shot and killed when her car was fired on near a gas station at Givat Zeev in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. A passenger in her car was seriously wounded. No other details were immediately available.

On Monday, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the militant wing of Arafat's Fatah movement -- said it that following the death of a popular Fatah official in an explosion at Tulkarem it would no longer honor a cease-fire Arafat called December 16.

The Al Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility Monday afternoon for a drive-by shooting at a Jewish settlement west of Nablus. Israeli Army Sgt. Elad Abu-Gani, 19, of Tiberias, was killed and 2nd Lt. Yaniv Uzi-Dan sustained light-to-moderate gunshot wounds.

'Insulting behavior'

In Gaza, the Izz Eddin al-Kasam Martyrs Brigades -- the military wing of the radical Islamic Hamas movement -- issued a statement saying it might launch unspecified new attacks because the world did nothing about "the crimes of the occupation forces and their insulting behavior toward President Arafat."

As part of Israel's effort to limit Arafat's movements, its forces destroyed his helicopters -- a retaliatory move for Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa. Last week, the Israelis dug up runways at Gaza's international airport.

Izz Eddin al-Kasam also said the killing of Fatah leader Raed al-Karmi at Tulkarem and the bulldozing of Palestinian homes were "crimes" committed by the Israelis.

Hundreds of mourners shouted "revenge, revenge" and fired weapons into the air Tuesday as they carried the body of Karmi, whom Palestinians considered a hero, through the streets of Tulkarem.

After the funeral, a Palestinian Authority official said the authority would continue to honor Arafat's cease-fire, which he called on December 16. The commander of the West Bank Fatah said his movement also would abide by the cease-fire.

On December 21, Hamas leaders said they would honor Arafat's call by suspending suicide attacks inside Israeli territory.

Nevertheless, two Hamas gunmen cut through a fence last week at an Israeli military post near where the borders of Israel, Gaza and Egypt converge and killed four Israeli soldiers before they were killed.

Hamas leaders defended the attack, saying the military post was a "legitimate target."

Permanent cease-fire in doubt

The killings and threats underscore whether the Bush administration would send U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region to negotiate a stable cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he hopes efforts to reach a permanent cease-fire agreement will not falter.

"There were yesterday [Monday] some incidents," said Peres, referring to the explosion that killed Karmi. "I hope that they will remain isolated and the attempt to continue the cease-fire will be extended and continued by all parties."

A number of Palestinian groups Monday accused Israel of assassinating Karmi, 30, who died Monday when a bomb blast went off as he passed by a cemetery.

Karmi had been on Israel's most wanted list. He claimed responsibility for the killing of two Tel Aviv restaurant operators last year. Israel also blamed him for the deaths of eight other Israelis.

The Israeli government has not commented on Karmi's death, but Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer suggested Tuesday that Karmi died in a "work accident," Israel's term for a premature explosion that kills the maker of a bomb. Ben Eliezer claimed Karmi was planning new attacks "within a day or two."

Video from the scene of Karmi's death showed a crater where the blast went off in a cemetery wall, blowing away part of a road. Shrapnel blew the bark off a nearby olive tree.

-- CNN's Mike Hanna, Shira Medding and Sausan Ghosheh contributed to this report.


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