Roadblock shooting of Palestinian raises Israel tension

JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces were preparing for possible disturbances earlier this week after a Palestinian was shot dead after running a roadblock.

Israeli police, already on heightened alert following the death last week of Hamas' chief bomb-maker, said they shot Muhammed al-Salaimi, 25, late Monday after he refused to stop at a roadblock north of Jerusalem.

In a chase that proceeded toward the West Bank town of Ramallah, Salaimi drove through two more roadblocks and rammed into a number of police vehicles before police opened fire on his car. They said a second man who also was in the car fled on foot.

Jerusalem District Police Cmdr. Yair Yitzhaki said the police were justified, because the vehicle "broke through two checkpoints. This was no innocent ride…" Yitzhaki said police aimed for the wheels of the van, but because they were firing from a speeding car ended up hitting the driver.

Salaimi's family contested the police version of the incident.

"They caught up with him and shot him. They shot him although he had stopped," said Salaimi's brother, Nadir.

Police officials were concerned that current tensions in the territories over the deadlocked peace process and the death of Hamas bomb-maker Mohiyedine Sharif would be increased by the shooting.

These concerns prompted them to dispatch reinforcements to Jerusalem to deal with potential disturbances after Salaimi's funeral. However, the funeral procession was relatively peaceful and there were no reports of any disturbances.

An initial inquiry by a Justice Ministry department that investigates police actions said Salaimi, who was from Jerusalem's Old City, did not have a driver's license and that this might have been the reason for his refusing to stop.

Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani defended the police action, saying they had responded appropriately to the situation.

Kahalani noted that at about the same time in the same area, two Palestinians had been detained, and a Beretta pistol and other equipment found in their car.

"It appeared as if the two were planning to kidnap a soldier," Kahalani told Israel Radio.

The shooting came amid Hamas threats to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel to avenge the death of Sharif.

Israeli security officials decided this week to station additional police and army troops in the country's large cities and popular tourist sites during the Passover holidays.

Just the same, security officials said there was no concrete information of any planned attacks.