- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

JERUSALEM An Israeli helicopter missile killed a senior member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas yesterday, and Israeli troops gunned down five other militants, including two reportedly plotting to ambush settlers.

Despite the violence, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel was ready to negotiate with the Palestinians.

"We are ready to negotiate. Myself, I am going to lead those negotiations. I really believe in that," Mr. Sharon told members of the World Jewish Congress meeting in Jerusalem.

Mr. Sharon previously had insisted on an end to violence before negotiations could start, but he did not mention that condition yesterday.

The Palestinians said they were ready to talk, but dismissed Mr. Sharon's remarks. "This man has not shown any signal aiming to achieve peace. He has only shown his aim toward killing, destruction and aggression," said Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath.

In Oslo, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the slayings yesterday and said he hoped for a fast international response to the violence.

"What has happened was completely against what was agreed upon," he said at a news conference. "[The Israelis] had promised not to continue their plan for military escalation including assassinations."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called on both sides yesterday to stop the violence. He also urged Israel to move its forces out of Palestinian territory. Under strong U.S. pressure, Israel left Bethlehem and Beit Jalla on Sunday, but troops remained in four other towns.

"Clearly, we want to see the Israelis withdraw completely and we want to see Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority take immediate steps to identify and bring to justice those responsible for the violence," Mr. Boucher said.

In a midmorning Israeli strike, a helicopter gunship rocketed a barn in the West Bank city of Hebron, killing Jamil Jadallah, who the army said was a senior Hamas member involved in dozens of attacks against Israelis, including suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Mr. Jadallah had escaped from Palestinian jails four times since being convicted of killing two Israelis in 1998. The militant group Islamic Jihad called the killing "the ugly assassination" and said it would be avenged, as did Hamas.

Another Hamas member, Abdullah Jarwushi, was gunned down by an Israeli tank in the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem. The army said it opened fire on a suspicious car whose passengers had fired on Israeli soldiers.

Hamas said the targeted killing was a dangerous development, because Mr. Jarwushi was a businessman and not a political leader.

In a third clash, two Palestinian policemen plotting with a group to attack Jewish settlers were killed by Israeli soldiers who ambushed them near Bazaria, about 15 miles northwest of Nablus, officials from Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement said.

The army said the two Fatah members were among four Palestinians who started firing toward an Israeli car. The other two Palestinians fled, the army said.

Also, after nightfall, Israeli troops moved deeper into Qalqilya, one of the four towns Israel was holding, and opened fire on armed Palestinians, killing two, the Israeli military said. Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces then withdrew to their previous position.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was traveling to the region for talks today with Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat in the latest diplomatic initiative to end the violence.

In 13 months of fighting, 736 persons have been killed on the Palestinian side and 191 on the Israeli side.

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