Israelis, Palestinians trade fire amid Israel's political turmoil

JERUSALEM - Palestinian mourners shouting anti-Israeli slogans marched through the West Bank town of Jenin at a mass funeral Saturday for five Palestinians killed in one of the deadliest attacks since the fighting began in September.

Amid the Israeli-Palestinian friction, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced he would resign on Sunday and an election for prime minister would be held within 60 days. The announcement meant Barak would have to deal with the violence while simultaneously running for re-election.

Also, Israel intensified its clampdown around Palestinian towns, further restricting travel, and a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was seriously injured after being shot in the abdomen by Jewish settlers in the West Bank town of Hebron, witnesses said.

The deaths of 10 people on Friday - seven Palestinians and three Israelis - raised fears of retaliatory violence on Saturday. However, heavy rains and cold weather in many areas kept crowds off the streets, and only small-scale clashes were reported as of Saturday evening.

Still, thousands turned out in Jenin, carrying the coffins of the five men killed Friday when an Israeli tank fired on a police guard post. Four of the dead were policemen, the fifth was a civilian.

''Fight, fight, until the end of the Israeli occupation,'' chanted the crowd. Some wore masks and carried guns. Others waved Palestinian flags.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian information minister, said Friday's attack was a ''deliberate step to escalate the current Israeli aggression in order to serve political objectives.''

The Israeli army said the tank fired shells after soldiers spotted four suspicious figures in the distance. Mohammed Hijazi, a policeman who was standing near the site of the attack, said the Israelis fired without provocation.

The five fatalities made it one of the deadliest attacks since the violence erupted 10 weeks ago. More than 300 people, the vast majority Palestinian, have been killed over that period.

In renewed violence Saturday, a Jewish settler shot Mansur Dshaber, 13, near Hebron, according to Dshaber's uncle, Ata Dshaber. The Israeli army sent a helicopter to evacuate the youth to a Jerusalem hospital.

Also, Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops traded gunfire in Hebron and Ramallah, according to the army and witnesses. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army imposed a strict closure on areas under the full control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, further limiting Palestinian travel. A general closure imposed since the fighting broke out has banned Palestinians from entering Israel.


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