Violence makes cease-fire something of a misnomer

JERUSALEM — Faced with continued casualties, the Israeli public is growing increasingly frustrated with a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect last week.

Since Monday, two Israelis from the settlement of Homesh were killed in separate West Bank shooting attacks.

Ilya Kirivitz, 62 and the father of five, worked at a printing house in Netanya, and often traded with a Palestinian at the nearby village of Silat a-Daher to make a little extra money. He went to the home of the Palestinian on Wednesday, just moments from Homesh, and was shot at close range in the head. Kirivitz died minutes later.

IDF soldiers conducted a house-to-house search and arrested a number of residents of the village.

He was the fourth victim of West Bank ambushes this week, when Palestinian gunmen killed two Israeli settlers in other incidents.

On Monday, Danny Yehuda, also of Homesh, was killed and a teenage settler was lightly wounded in a drive-by shooting near the West Bank city of Nablus. Yehuda, 37, who continued to drive on to Homesh but died shortly thereafter, was married and the father of three young children.

Doron Zisserman was killed Monday as he was driving in a convoy of cars.

Eyewitnesses said a gunman took up a position on a hilltop overlooking the gate to the settlement of Einav and fired on cars entering the settlement. Zisserman, a 38-year-old father of four, was shot in the head and neck. Efforts to resuscitate him failed.

The attack took place as the funeral for Yehuda was being held.

Officials from Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party claimed responsibility for both of Monday's attacks. The officials said members of the group's militia would continue attacking Israelis, arguing that the U.S.-brokered deal applies only to those areas under sole Palestinian control — not to Israeli settlements and surrounding areas.

On Wednesday, shortly before that day's deadly ambush, the head of Palestinian militias in the West Bank vowed to continue attacks on Israeli settlers.

"We will continue to besiege the settlers until all of them leave the territories," Marwan Barghouti said.

The Palestinian public likewise saw its death toll increase after the cease-fire, which began June 13.

Palestinian officials said Israeli soldiers were responsible for the shooting death Sunday night of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Israel said the soldiers shot at Palestinians trying to scale a fence into a Jewish settlement.

On Tuesday, a funeral was held for a 16-year-old Palestinian who died of wounds he received in clashes with Israeli troops over the weekend.

And the next day, a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on the border between Israel and the West Bank. The soldiers opened fire when the man resisted arrest, Army Radio reported.

After a three-hour meeting of the Security Cabinet on Wednesday, Israeli officials said they would continue implementing a U.S.-mediated cease-fire despite what they called the Palestinian Authority's failure to fulfill its obligations under the truce.

But the officials also said Wednesday they would not fully lift a blockade of Palestinian towns and villages until all attacks on Israelis stopped.

In a statement issued after the meeting — but before that day's ambush occurred — the Security Cabinet added that while there would be no retaliation at the moment for ongoing Palestinian terrorism, Israel "reserves the right of self-defense to prevent attacks aimed at its citizens and soldiers."

Arafat called Wednesday's announcement by Israel that it would adhere to the truce an "attempt to deceive international public opinion."

A day earlier, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened his top security officials to discuss the continuing Palestinian attacks.

After Tuesday's meeting, Israeli officials warned that they will reconsider their commitment to the U.S.-brokered cease-fire if the Palestinian Authority does not clamp down on violence.

"The cease-fire is not working," said Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Sharon. Israel "can't go on like this. People are getting killed."

Arafat said Tuesday his people are not to blame for the violence that has threatened the cease-fire.

"We do not commit acts of violence," Arafat said on a visit to Madrid. "The violence today is committed by the settlers."