Police: West Bank Shooting Not Caused by Checkpoint Removal

Rightist MKs say government's lax security policies in territories led to Sunday killing of two cops.

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Senior police officials say that the removal of checkpoints and the low intensity of Israel Defense Forces operations in the West Bank did not contribute to Sunday's shooting death of two traffic cops in the Jordan Valley.

"The IDF's activity is very extensive," said Shlomi Katbi, the commander of the West Bank police. "I don't see where one can tie the ongoing security activity and its quality with what happened Sunday evening."

Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha council of West Bank settlements, said Israel's policies in the territories were to blame for the continued bloodletting.

"Every right-minded person knew that the policy of removing checkpoints and freeing terrorists that the outgoing government continues to force upon the IDF until its last days in office will exact a heavy price in blood," Dayan said.

National Union MK Uri Ariel said the attack is "an immediate indication of the price in blood for the removal of checkpoints Sunday morning in Nablus."

"In the next government, we will prevent such irresponsible security moves," Ariel said.

'Imad Mughniyeh Group' claims responsibility

An organization calling itself the "Imad Mughniyeh Group" early Monday claimed responsibility for a West Bank shooting attack a day earlier that killed two Israel Police officers.

An anonymous caller speaking on behalf of the group spoke to French news agency, AFP, Israel Radio reported.

The group is named for the top Hezbollah commander who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in February 2008 that was blamed on Israel. Jerusalem denied involvement in the killing.

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The two police officers died Sunday evening from gunshot wounds sustained while on patrol near the settlement of Masu'a, in the northern West Bank.

Both victims were found in their vehicle suffering from critical gunshot wounds. One was pronounced dead by medics shortly after being discovered, and the other succumbed to his wounds following resuscitation efforts.

The two policemen have been named as David Rabinowitz and Yehezkel Ramzamker.

Police and rescue services were notified shortly after 8 P.M. of an apparent car accident near the Masu'a settlement and of a shooting attack in the same area. Officers who arrived on the scene found the overturned patrol car and the victims inside.

An Israel Police spokesman said the circumstances of the incident were still being investigated, although the main line of inquiry being pursued was that the two had been shot by one or more Palestinian gunmen.

According to an initial investigation, militants opened fire on the patrol car at close-range, causing the officers to lose control of the vehicle.

Police are also investigating the possibility that the attacker or attackers staged a flat tire and then shot the officers at close range when they stopped to help.

"The two had been killed by gunshots and the main suspicion points to a nationalistic motive," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Masu'a is located in the Jordan Valley, just southeast of Nablus and near the major West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Two police officers were lightly wounded in Jerusalem 10 days ago when an Arab bulldozer driver overturned their vehicle and rammed it into a bus, before being shot by police and a taxi driver. The attacker later died of his wounds.

Last Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian youth and wounded another after firebombs were thrown at their vehicle in the West Bank.

In January, a 34-year-old resident of the West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashahar was seriously wounded when a gunman opened fire on his car on the highway near the settlement. Moshe Avitan, who was driving at the time, suffered wounds to his face from the shooting.

Israel has transferred some security control to Palestinian security forces in West Bank towns but controls much of the traffic that travels through the areas at checkpoints in territory.



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