An Israel Defense Forces elite force killed a senior official in the Fatah's military wing in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday.

Troops from the Duvdevan elite unit surrounded a house in which Jabber Akhris was hiding. Army sources said the troops shot and killed Akhris as he was coming out of the house wielding an AK-47 assault rifle.

According to the Shin Bet security service Akhris is responsible for a shooting attack near Bethlehem in 2003 in which two soldiers were killed, and also commanded attempts to fire mortar shells on the Giloh neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Earlier on Sunday a gag order was lifted on the arrests of two Palestinians suspected of murdering Eldad Abir, the 48-year-old owner of a gas station in the West Bank settlement of Migdalim in early March.

The Shin Bet arrested two Fatah militants, residents of a village next to Nablus, suspected of carrying out the murder. One of the suspects, arrested on the Allenby Bridge on his way to Jordan, admitted during questioning to stabbing Abir.

Third suspect still not arrested According to suspicions against him, the second Palestinian assisted in the planning of the killing. The investigation reveals that a third suspect, who has not yet been arrested, clashed directly with Abir, and fired his weapon at him. At this stage, one of the other men allegedly appeared and stabbed Amir.

After the incident, a Palestinian man working at the gas station reported that he saw two armed Palestinians arrive and open fire on Abir. He was critically wounded in his head, and Magen David Adom rescue teams that arrived at the scene failed to resuscitate him.

The two shooters managed to escape, and Israel Defense Forces deployed large forces to comb the area.

Security forces did not immediately rule out criminal motives for the incident. The possibility was examined because the gas station is some one and a half kilometers from a main road, and a shooting attack on an Israeli car would have involved less risk on the part of the attackers.