For two hours, Khaled Sallah and his family huddled on
the floor of their apartment early Tuesday as the army poured machine gun
fire into the building and helicopter gunships pounded the roof with
rockets, trading fire with a fugitive gunman.
But as Sallah, 50, tried to negotiate an exit from the building, a single
bullet hit him in the neck, relatives said. His 16-year-old son Mohammed
tried to rescue him when another bullet caught the teen in the mouth and
Sallah, an American-educated computer science professor, and his son were
killed during an arrest raid by Israeli commandos in the Ein Beit Ilma
refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. An Israeli officer and two
Palestinian gunmen also were killed in the nightlong battle.
In nearly four years of fighting, hundreds of civilians have been killed on
both sides. Gun battles often rage in crowded population centers, where
walls and doors offer little protection against large-caliber bullets.
Maj. Sharon Feingold, an Israeli army spokeswoman, said the military
regretted the deaths of the two civilians Tuesday. ''But any time the
terrorists use civilians as cover these things happen,'' she said, adding
that the two militants killed in the fighting had been behind a string of
attacks against Israelis.
Palestinians allege that troops often fire randomly in densely populated
areas, with little regard for possibly injury to bystanders.
The latest incident began just after midnight when soldiers cornered two
local leaders of the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine, a
violent PLO faction.
In the initial exchange of fire, the Israeli officer and a Palestinian
gunman were killed, Feingold said. The second fugitive fled into to the
building where the Sallah family lives..