An Israeli soldier was shot and killed today in the West Bank city of Ramallah in the second of two shooting incidents in the increasingly tense Israeli-occupied territory.
The soldier, identified as Cpl. Aharon Avidar, 29, was shot at close range by a small-caliber pistol while on guard duty outside an Israeli Interior Ministry facility in Ramallah. Avidar, who reportedly was shot in the chest, died en route to a hospital in Jerusalem.
The Israeli Army imposed a temporary curfew on Ramallah and a nearby Palestinian refugee camp and detained a number of people in connection with the shooting incident. By tonight, there were no reports that formal charges had been made against suspects in the case.
Israeli radio said that Avidar was shot by a single gunman who fired as the soldier was opening a gate to the Interior Ministry building.
About four hours before Avidar was shot, there was an incident at the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem involving Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a leader of the most militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank. There were no reports of injuries in this incident.
According to military officials, shortly after 9 a.m. a group of high school youths in the camp began throwing stones at Levinger, who has been holding a protest vigil outside the camp for the past five months to demand stronger measures against Arabs who throw stones or otherwise attack Israeli vehicles on West Bank roads.
The military officials said Levinger, brandishing a pistol, and an Israeli border policeman who was armed with a rifle, rushed into the camp and fired into the air to disperse the students.
More stones were thrown at Levinger when he left the camp, and he and the border policeman again fired into the air but remained outside the camp, the military officials said.
Israeli soldiers immediately sealed off the area around the refugee camp, blocking access by, among others, seven members of Israel's parliament who arrived outside the camp to demonstrate their support for Levinger.
In a radio interview, Levinger said the shooting incident "was nothing special."
"They threw stones and I shot into the air, according to the law, and they ran away," he said.
Today's incidents came amid increasing pressure on the national unity government here to impose tougher security measures in the West Bank. The seven members of parliament who arrived outside the Dheisheh refugee camp today were from small, right-wing parties. A similar demonstration is planned Tuesday by parliament members from the Likud bloc, one of the two main partners in the national unity government.
Geula Cohen of the right-wing Tehiya Party, one of those who demonstrated in support of Levinger today, said of the camp residents, "The choice is to surrender to their goal to destroy Israel, or to put them under heavy punishment in our jails or outside the borders of the state."
A number of West Bank settlers and their supporters in parliament advocate deportation of Arabs convicted of attacking Jews in the territory.
In the midst of the West Bank turmoil, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin returned to Israel today from a visit to the United States. Rabin told reporters at the airport that he was determined to "fight terrorism with all the measures within our laws" and to "maintain law and order for all the people who live there [the West Bank] or move there."