- Associated Press - Friday, September 17, 2010

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli troops killed a Hamas militant Friday during an arrest raid in the West Bank, where violence has increased since the start of new Mideast peace talks this month.

The Islamic group promised to avenge the militant’s death. Gunmen from Hamas, which opposes the peace talks and has threatened to use violence to derail them, killed four Israeli settlers in a Sept. 1 shooting just as the talks were getting under way.

Israel’s military said soldiers were trying to arrest Iyad Abu Shilbaya, 37, early Friday in the town of Tulkarem when he ran at them, ignoring orders to halt. The military said troops feared he had a weapon and shot him.

Abu Shilbaya had served time in Israeli jails in the past and was wanted for “recent activity,” the military said. No additional details were provided.

The man’s brother, Moetasim Abu Shilbaya, said troops burst into his brother’s house around 3 a.m. and killed him in his bedroom. A floor mat in the room and the bed were stained with blood.

Mr. Abu Shilbaya called the killing an “assassination.” He said his brother was a Hamas political activist, not an armed militant.

But a Hamas military spokesman in Gaza, Abu Obeida, confirmed the man was a member of the group’s armed wing. “The blood of our martyr will be a curse that will follow the occupation and the traitors,” he said.

The word traitors referred to Hamas‘ rivals in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which has ruled only the West Bank since losing control of the other Palestinian territory, the Gaza Strip, to Hamas in 2007.

A Hamas leader in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the militant was a leader of the group in Tulkarem. He accused the Palestinian Authority of lending legitimacy to such killings by holding peace talks with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority wields limited power in the West Bank under Israel’s overall security control. Though the Palestinian Authority and Israel share Hamas as a common enemy, the Palestinian leadership has criticized Israel for carrying out arrest raids of this kind, saying they undermine its own authority.

Israel says Palestinian forces are still unable to fully assume control for security.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a statement condemning the killing, saying it “increases the weakness of the credibility of the peace process, which is already shaken.”

Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel have carried out West Bank crackdowns against Hamas, which is backed by Iran and remains committed to Israel’s destruction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a second round of peace talks this week, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The talks face a major obstacle at the end of the month, when a slowdown in Israeli settlement construction is set to expire. The Palestinians say they will halt the talks if settlement construction resumes in full, and the U.S. has urged Israel to extend the slowdown.

There are signs the sides might be close to a compromise that would allow the talks to continue, but the leaders still need to reach agreement on the thorniest issues dividing them. Those include the route of a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and a formula for sharing Jerusalem.

Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

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