Palestinian police will rein in Islamic fundamentalists who attack Israelis with persuasion rather than force, the Palestinian police chief said Saturday.
Direct confrontations with the fundamentalist Hamas group could risk a Palestinian civil war, Gaza police commander Maj. Gen. Ghazi Jabali told Israel radio. Instead, he said, Palestinian authorities will persuade Hamas to respect the peace agreement with Israel.But Hamas, the main opponent of Israeli-Palestinian peace, organized a riot against Israeli troops Saturday in the West Bank town of Ramallah. One Palestinian youth died and eight were wounded.
One of the injured was a photographer for the Reuter news agency, Khaled Zghari, who was shot in the shoulder. Hospital officials said he was in good condition.
Israel has urged Palestinians to crack down on fundamentalists, saying continued attacks on Israelis could threaten expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank. Five Israelis have died in attacks in Gaza since Palestinian autonomy began there and in the West Bank town of Jericho three months ago.
Palestinian police detained at least 40 Islamic activists earlier this week after drive-by attacks in Gaza killed one Israeli and injured six.
But all of them were freed, and Palestinian sources have said privately no charges are likely.
Palestinians must work harder to restrain Hamas, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir told Israel army radio. But he said Israel has "no intention of punishing" Palestinian leaders.
Jabali, the Gaza police commander, said Israel was partly to blame for recent attacks by allowing 5,000 Jewish settlers to remain in the Gaza Strip.
"You're trying to trip up the Palestinian Authority," Jabali said in Arabic remarks paraphrased in Hebrew. "And you're making a big mistake regarding the settlers."
Despite the violence, polls show Israeli support for the peace process reached new highs after Israel ended its state of war with Jordan last month.