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Jihad militants killed in West Bank operation

Ashkar was seen by the Israeli army as "responsible for the last eight anti-Israeli suicide attacks".

india Updated: May 15, 2006 03:50 IST

An Islamic Jihad leader wanted as the alleged mastermind of a string of suicide bombings and five other Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in an eruption of violence in the West Bank.

Elias al-Ashkar was killed along with fellow Jihad leader Moatessem Shaar in the village of Qabitiya on Sunday during an Israeli arrest operation on a house where they were holed up.

Military sources said that the operation was aimed at capturing Ashkar, who was seen by the Israeli army as "responsible for the last eight anti-Israeli suicide attacks".

The bodies of the pair, both aged 28 and leaders of Jihad's military wing the Al-Quds Brigades, were found in the rubble of the building which had been the focus of the fighting as Israeli bulldozers began razing the structure.

Security sources said that at least one other victim was a member of Islamic Jihad. Another casualty was a 21-year-old resident who was killed after he threw stones at the forces.

Meanwhile, a guard outside the Palestinian Authority's local intelligence headquarters in Jenin was shot dead by Israeli troops, bringing the total of Palestinians killed in the north of the West Bank to six.

A statement from the office of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas described the Israeli army operation as a "crime".

"This dangerous escalation will lead the region to more violence and instability," it said.

Palestinian security sources also said Israeli special forces had tried to kill Mahmoud Saadi, the overall leader of Jihad in the Jenin area, by shooting at his vehicle in the village of Birqin. Saadi was hit in the chest and legs but his injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, the sources said.