Guard shoots dead Palestinian teenager

An Israeli security guard shot dead a Palestinian teenager today during a protest against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, police said.

An Israeli security guard shot dead a Palestinian teenager today during a protest against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, police said.

The guard was taken into custody and his weapon confiscated, pending an investigation, said police spokesman Shlomi Sagi.

Palestinian hospital staff named the dead boy as Mahyoub Assi, 16, and said he was from the same clan as two 17-year-olds shot dead in May while stoning soldiers at the same spot, near the West Bank village of Beit Laqia.

The incident took place as demonstrators marked the first anniversary of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, that the barrier, a network of ditches, barbed wire and concrete blocks, violates international law and must be taken down.

Israel says the barrier it is an essential measure to stop attacks. Palestinians argue that the enclosure, which dips into the West Bank at several points, is a land grab that hinders their attempts to create an independent Palestinian state.

Elsewhere along the barrier’s route, near the Palestinian village of Bilin, stone-throwing protesters slightly hurt a soldier and a policeman, the military said.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official said he expected that two-thirds of the 9,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements slated for eviction would leave before troops come to clear the settlements.

In remarks published today in the Haaretz daily, Yonatan Bassi, who heads the agency in charge of compensating uprooted settlers, said he believes soldiers will encounter “only about a third of the settlers” still in their homes when the forced evacuation begins in mid-August.

Earlier this week, Bassi told a parliamentary committee that only 396 of the 1,100 settler families have so far started negotiating terms for relocating. Settler leaders have vowed to stay and resist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s ”disengagement” plan.

Bassi, however, said he believed many more would leave without being forced.

“In the two weeks before the disengagement, there will be an exodus,” Bassi told Haaretz. “The people who are now trickling out will become a flow. Two days before ’D-Day’ the flow will become a tidal wave,” he said.

Settler leaders have promised non-violent resistance only, but there are fears that small extremist groups will put up a fight. In recent weeks, extremists have commandeered buildings in Gaza and clashed with security forces and Palestinians.

Bassi said he believed that in most cases, even the settlers who remain to the last moment would not resist. ”There will be a knock on the door and they will leave. Very few will resist by force,” he said.

However, he did say there was potential for violent resistance in the settlement of Sa-Nur in the northern West Bank. Many veteran residents of the isolated Jewish enclave moved out after the September 2000 outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting and were replaced by hard-line nationalists.

“Something very bad is liable to develop there (in Sa-Nur),” Bassi said.

In the interview Bassi, also addressed the fate of buildings to be left behind by the settlers. The Israeli government has decided to destroy them, but some officials, including Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, say demolition would slow down the pullout and endanger soldiers unnecessarily.

Bassi said that the buildings will be destroyed to deny die-hard settlers any foothold.

“To make sure the settlers do not return, the (bulldozers) will advance with the forces and demolish one settlement after another,” he said. Bassi said the greenhouses in the Gaza Strip would also be destroyed.

Palestinians had hoped that they would be able to take over the hothouses, where flowers and vegetables are grown, to help alleviate soaring unemployment in the poverty-stricken strip.

However, Haim Altman, a spokesman for Bassi, said today that nothing has been decided yet regarding the greenhouses. He said some of them could be dismantled and erected again at settlers’ new locations.

Opponents of the withdrawal fear that it will be seen as a victory by Palestinian militants and will encourage attacks on nearby Israeli towns rather than bring peace.

The army said four soldiers were slightly injured today when their jeep ran over an explosive device planted by Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

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