Israel kills Quds Brigades leader in West Bank

Follows deadly day when Israel killed 19 Palestinians


Israeli troops killed the head of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement in the West Bank in a gun battle on Wednesday, Palestinian security sources said.

Walid Abeidi, 40, was shot dead during heavy exchanges of fire with Israeli troops who had surrounded his house in the village of Qabatiya near the northern West Bank town of Jenin, the sources said.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed that troops had killed Abeidi and said a second militant was arrested in the raid.

The Islamic Jihad is considered one the most radical Palestinian movements and its armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, has claimed responsibility for nearly all anti-Israeli suicide bombings in recent years.

The raid comes one day after the deadliest single day of violence in a year in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians, including the son of a top Hamas leader, and Palestinian militants shot dead a civilian inside Israel.

On Wednesday, Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for the firing of a heavy barrage of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza against the hard-hit southern Israeli town of Sderot, which caused no injuries.

The Israeli army carries out near daily raids in the impoverished Gaza Strip, where the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2006.

The violence erupted after Israeli and Palestinians on Monday renewed peace talks on the most sensitive issues of the Middle East conflict with the hope of reaching an agreement by the end of the year.

It also came on the heels of US President George W. Bush's visit to the region aimed at garnering Arab support for the peace process.

Since November, more than 115 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip alone, according to an AFP count.

Wednesday's death brings to 6,070 the number of people killed since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinians, according to an AFP tally.