The Associated Press
July 9, 2008 - 4:43pm

The Palestinian prime minister charged Wednesday that Israeli military operations in the West Bank are hindering his administration's campaign to improve security in the territory.

Such operations "undermine grossly our efforts aimed at rebuilding our capacity and re-establishing law and order," Falam Fayyad said at a news conference he held in the West Bank city of Ramallah with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Hours later, Israeli forces fatally shot a wanted Hamas militant trying to escape arrest in Kufr Dan, near the city of Nablus, Army Radio reported. Palestinians said another suspected militant was arrested. The military had no immediate comment.

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli troops raided the Nablus city hall, confiscating five computers in what appeared to be part of a crackdown this week on institutions that Israel suspects of having ties to the militant group Hamas. Troops also raided six mosques and seized five buses belonging to schools close to Hamas, said Nablus' deputy mayor, Hafez Shaheen.

A strong Palestinian security presence in the West Bank is an integral part of the peace talks between Israel and Fayyad's West Bank government. Israel is reluctant to rely on a recently beefed-up Palestinian police force to head off attacks on Israel or prevent Hamas from seizing control of the West Bank, as it did in the Gaza Strip last year.

The peace talks aim to set up a Palestinian state that would include most of the West Bank. Israel captured the territory in 1967 but has expressed willingness to transfer much of the territory to Palestinian control.

Addressing another contentious issue, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem charged that the government has not changed the course of the West Bank separation barrier despite rulings from Israel's Supreme Court over the past three years ordering alterations.

Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said budgetary problems have delayed the changes.

The government says it needs the barrier to keep Palestinian attackers from getting into Israel. Palestinians charge it cuts off land they want for their planned state.

Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of an advisory ruling from the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, demanding Israel dismantle parts of the barrier that jut into the West Bank.

Palestinians threw rocks and tried to smash a bulldozer being used to carve the barrier's route through farmland belonging to the West Bank town of Naalin, beating a civilian worker, the Israeli military said. Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. Three were arrested.

Naalin has been the scene of almost daily protests against the barrier by Palestinians and their international backers. The military has declared it a closed military zone, banning demonstrations.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017