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7-year-old is slain in Gaza

Accounts differ on gunfire source

NABLUS, West Bank -- A 7-year-old Palestinian boy was killed yesterday. The Israeli military said the cause was haphazard gunfire toward an army jeep in a West Bank refugee camp. His family said he was hit by Israeli gunfire.

The boy, Khaled Walweel, had been standing at the window of his home and had just turned his back when he was shot and killed, the family said.

The gunfire broke out amiddeepening tensions in the aftermath of Israel's assassination Monday of the Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Members of Hamas are promising revenge; Israel's military says it will continue to hit militant leaders. And people on both sides fear a new wave of violence in a conflict that has lasted for more than three years.

Early yesterday, troops entered the Balata refugee camp, on the edge of the West Bank city of Nablus, to search for a fugitive suspected in a number of attempts in recent weeks to smuggle explosives, said a local army commander, Colonel Guy Hatzout.

Soldiers traded fire with Palestinians, but Hatzout ordered his troops to withdraw when they were unable to find the fugitive. Hatzout said he drove into the camp in his jeep to supervise the withdrawal of his troops.

The colonel said there had not been any firing for about five minutes when a Palestinian gunman began shooting toward the jeep from an alley. Hatzout said the man fired from behind a corner, and could not see what he was shooting at.

"Ten seconds later, I hear screaming behind my jeep. I see an entire family shouting, and in the arms of a father I see a bleeding boy," he said.

The boy's mother said he was hit by Israeli soldiers firing at a group of youths hurling stones at their jeeps. An army spokesman said troops did not open fire at the time of the stone-throwing.

Video footage showed a line of jeeps being pelted by stones as troops drove through one of the camp's alleys. At one point, a bullet hit a fender on the lead jeep; moments later, screaming was heard, and several people carried a boy into the street.

The boy's family lives in a second-floor apartment, and a bullet fired at street level might have ricocheted into a window.

"He was playing near the window," the boy's mother, Lina, said. "Suddenly, I heard shooting, and saw my boy drop . . . I saw the jeep from the window.

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