-Caveat Lector-

December 12, 2002

5 Unarmed Palestinians Killed by Israelis in Gaza

JERUSALEM, Dec. 12 - Five unarmed Palestinians were shot and killed as they
tried to climb over the barbed-wire fence marking the boundary between the
Gaza Strip and Israel, the Israeli Army said today.

The five were seen by soldiers on Wednesday in an area where Palestinians
are barred from entering. Soldiers fired at the five, and their bodies were
found this morning, the army said. Ladders were found near the bodies, but
no weapons.

Palestinians looking for work in Israel often try to climb the fence or cut
their way through. Unemployment is high in Gaza, particularly since
security measures blocked Israel to Gaza residents.

In other action in Gaza, Israeli soldiers killed an armed Palestinian
trying attack a Jewish settlement today. A radical faction of the Palestine
Liberation Organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
claimed responsibility for the failed infiltration.

Two Palestinians approached the Gush Katif settlement bloc before dawn,
armed with automatic rifles, an Israeli Army commander, Lt. Col. Avi Oved,
told The Associated Press.

One of the attackers was cutting the perimeter fence, Colonel Oved said.
"The forces fired on him and killed him," he said. "The other one was
apparently behind and managed to flee. Their goal was definitely to get
into one of the settlements."

Also Thursday, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that it had the right to
try Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the current Palestinian uprising and the
highest-ranking Palestinian official in custody.

The defense argued that Mr. Barghouti, a leader of Yasir Arafat's Fatah
movement in the West Bank, had immunity as a Palestinian legislator and
that Israeli forces took him illegally from a West Bank home eight months

Mr. Barghouti had said he should be treated as a prisoner of war, not a
criminal suspect. Israel has accused him of involvement in attacks that
killed 26 Israelis.

On the political front, a week of internal balloting appeared to edge
Israel's Labor Party to the right as two peace activists in the party said
on Wednesday that they would quit to join the left-wing Meretz Party in
national elections next month.

The two, Yossi Beilin and Yael Dayan, finished low in the Labor Party's
internal elections this week, in which party members rank their candidates
for seats in Israel's Parliament.

In the elections on Jan. 28, Labor is expected to win only about 21 seats,
4 fewer than it currently holds. Other Labor candidates gained enough votes
in this week's elections to claim all those seats.

In Israeli parliamentary elections, citizens vote only for parties, which
then apportion their seats among the top finishers in internal ballots like
those held this week.

Meretz, which advocates moves toward an immediate peace with Palestinian
representatives, agreed to rank Mr. Beilin and Ms. Dayan higher on their
candidates' list in exchange for their departure from Labor.

Mr. Beilin's decision to leave Labor stands as a measure of the party's
shift to the right since the Palestinian uprising began 26 months ago. He
was one of the primary movers behind the interim peace accord that Israel
and the Palestinian Authority signed in Oslo in 1993.

The latest opinion polls showed the hard-line Likud Party, led by Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, holding a wide lead over the opposition Labor Party.

According to the Dialogue research company poll published in the daily
Haaretz today, Likud will get 41 seats in the 120-member Parliament, more
than double the 19 seats it currently holds.

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