2 Palestinian police held in shooting

Other News Materials 4 December 2007 02:40 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Two Palestinian policemen have been arrested in the fatal shooting of a Jewish settler in a volatile West Bank area where Palestinians are trying to impose law and order, the Israeli military said Monday.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the development of effective Palestinian security forces remains essential to the success of the recently relaunched Mideast peace process, but "rogue elements" among those forces "pose a serious challenge."

A Palestinian official said moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank government was trying to exert control over armed groups within the security forces that have been operating without authorization.

The shooting occurred near Nablus, where the Palestinian government has been beefing up its police presence in a step toward restoring law and order in the West Bank.

The Israeli military said it arrested two men who opened fire on a passing Israeli vehicle on a West Bank road in the Nov. 19 attack, killing settler Ido Zoldan. It identified one of the suspects as Dafar Baram, a 22-year-old member of the Palestinian national security forces under the jurisdiction of Abbas' government.

The military said it had also arrested Baram's brother, Abdullah, also 22, while Palestinian security forces had arrested Fadi Jama, another member of the Palestinian national security forces.

According to the military, the Baram brothers told investigators they had waited at the side of the road for a passing Israeli vehicle and overtook Zoldan's after they saw it pass, then opened fire. The two turned over the weapons they used, the military said.

They were arrested Nov. 20, the military said. It did not say when Jama had been arrested, or what his alleged role had been.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ashraj al-Ajrami confirmed that Palestinian policemen were suspected in the killing.

Still, he told Israel Army Radio, "I think we are starting to institute law and order in the Palestinian territories, and are dismantling all the armed groups that aren't part of the official (security) forces."

The Mideast peace process was officially relaunched last week at a U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Md. Among the key elements is strengthening Abbas' security forces so they can control both the West Bank and, at some future point, take back Gaza from the Hamas militants who seized it in June.

"A process is under way to create a more professional and efficient Palestinian security structure, a process supported by the international community and Israel," Regev said. "This is one of the most important keys to the success of the peace process."

Israeli security forces said Monday they had held up a shipment of Russian armored personnel carriers to Palestinian police because they wanted to mount machine guns on them.

Settler leader Daniella Weiss said the involvement of Palestinian policemen in the killing proved Israel's policy of allowing arms to reach forces loyal to Abbas was a grave error.

"Anyone with a head on his shoulders knows that giving a weapon to Arabs means giving a weapon for the murder of Jews. It has no other meaning," Weiss said.