In an apparent attempt to embarrass PLO chief Yasser Arafat and undermine his talks with Israel, Palestinian militants killed one Israeli security guard Monday and wounded another in the PLO-ruled Gaza Strip.
Arafat denounced the roadside ambush as a “dirty act” and promised swift punishment. Israeli leaders said the attack on Arafat’s own turf underscored their complaints that he was not doing enough to foil attacks on Israelis.
Israeli President Ezer Weizman called on Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to take “stronger measures” against the militants and reiterated his call for a suspension of the peace talks. “It is possible that, as in any process, we sometimes need to take a break and think.”
In a telephone call to The Associated Press in Jerusalem, a man claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the Syrian-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical PLO faction.
Israel radio said the Muslim militant group Hamas also claimed responsibility in announcements made over mosque loudspeakers in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman, Emad Falouji, denied the report.
The ambush came three days before a crucial Rabin-Arafat meeting aimed at getting negotiations on expanding Palestinian autonomy back on track.
Negotiations were suspended after two Islamic militants set off a bomb in central Israel on Jan. 22, killing 21 Israelis. The two suicide bombers came from the Gaza Strip.
The shooting occurred about 8:45 a.m. near the town of Beit Lahia. Gunmen opened fire on two private Israeli security guards riding in an escort car behind two gasoline trucks. One guard was killed and the other seriously wounded.