Hebron Talks Will Continue

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HEBRON, West Bank: Negotiations over the Israeli troop pullout from the town of Hebron continued despite the attack by an Israeli soldier on New Year’s Day that wounded five Palestinians in a crowded Hebron marketplace. On Thursday, Palestinian negotiators said they would block the long-delayed accord on Hebron until Israel commits to a deadline for withdrawing its troops from rural West Bank areas. As talks continued, U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross spent the day in an unsuccessful attempt to reschedule a summit between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have vowed to avenge the shooting, TIME's Lisa Beyer cautiously discounts immediate retribution. "For a long time, Hamas has been issuing such statements and then doing nothing," she said. "There is a mainstream feeling among Palestinians of, 'lets get on with the peace process.' And that remains a very strong countervailing force on militant sentiment." As for predicting a signing date, Beyer doesn't dare. "To predict a Hebron agreement is pure lunacy," she said. "People have been calling it 'wrapped up' for months. But it's still not done." The gunman, Israeli Army private Noam Friedman, is unrepentant. Though he had sought psychiatric help several times during his six months of service, Friedman told reporters he was "completely normal" and said of his victims: "They're not innocent. They hate the Jews." Meanwhile, police have detained a second Israeli soldier, Yuval Jibli, on suspicion that he knew of Friedman's plans. Friedman told officials that he acted alone in planning and carrying out Wednesday's shooting. Asked about suspected accomplice Yuval Jibli, Friedman said: "I have no idea why he was arrested."