• TOP STORIES \ Nov 24, 2004
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    Christian Arab killed in Jerusalem - "By Mistake"
Christian Arab killed in Jerusalem -

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades on Saturday apologized for killing a young Israeli Arab student in a shooting attack in Jerusalem on Friday evening, saying that he had been mistaken for a "settler."

George Elias Khouri, a 20-year-old student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem was killed in a drive-by shooting as he was jogging in the French Hill area of Jerusalem.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, later claimed responsibility for the shooting.

"We will consider him as a martyr like hundreds of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces," the leader of the militant group said Saturday, adding that they would send a letter of apology to Khouri's family.

Khouri, a resident of Beit Hanina in north-east Jerusalem, was shot in the head and stomach. He was taken in critical condition to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem for treatment, where he later died of his wounds.

Police believe that Khouri's murderers are hiding in a village north of Jerusalem or in Ramallah, Israel Radio reported Saturday.

Khouri's father, Elias, a lawyer who has in the past represented Palestinians and Israeli Arabs in court, told Israel Radio on Saturday that his son had been an "outstanding" student at school and university, and described how his own father was killed in a bombing in Zion Square in Jerusalem in 1975.

Arafat's office telephoned Elias Khouri on Saturday morning, Army Radio reported, to condemn the attack and ask permission to attend the funeral for his son.

Elias Khouri told Army Radio that the Palestinian Authority leadership could not be blamed for the attack, as they have "no control."

"I am against all violent attacks against innocent civilians whether it be against Israeli civilians or Palestinian civilians. This must stop," he told Israel Radio on Saturday.

According to police, a car fled the scene of the shooting toward the West Bank village of Issawiya, prompting a police ground and air search of the area near Issawiya, and toward the adjacent West Bank city of Ramallah.

Witnesses reported late Friday that the first ambulance arrived on the scene 20 to 30 minutes after the attack.

Magen David Adom rescue services said the ambulance arrived 10 minutes after the attack.

The funeral was held on Sunday while the father of a young Arab shot dead by Palestinian gunmen aiming for Jews appealed yesterday to his people to stop targeting Israeli civilians, while criticizing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas.

Interviewed by Israel TV just before his son's funeral, Khoury said that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called him to express condolences. He praised Arafat's attitude but rejected a statement by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades apologizing for the case of "mistaken identity."

Sitting in his Jerusalem garden, Khoury said that violence on both sides is wrong, and attacks by Palestinians against innocent Israeli civilians harm the Palestinian cause.

"I appeal to my people: One crime does not justify another crime," Khoury said. "The crime that was done by the occupation against them cannot justify the crimes that they commit against innocent civilians who are walking on the streets, who have no connection with the political battle being fought."

Several hundred mourners gathered at the Christian cemetery on Mt. Zion, next to Jerusalem's Old City, for George Khoury's funeral yesterday afternoon. They watched as the simple wooden coffin, adorned with a cross, was lowered into the ground.

Some of those in attendance wept, but the atmosphere was quiet and restrained. Among the mourners was Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who condemned the attack.

While welcoming Arafat's words of condolence, Khoury rejected the statement by the Al Aqsa group, loosely linked to Arafat's Fatah movement. Al Aqsa apologized for mistaking Khoury as a Jew and declared him a "martyr," a title given to Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel.

Khoury called the statement "irrelevant," and blamed Al Aqsa and other armed bands for undermining the rule of law in the West Bank and Gaza.