RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Sixty prominent Palestinians urged their people yesterday not to retaliate for Israel's killing of the Hamas founder, but instead to transform the 3 1/2-year-old violent uprising into a peaceful protest for statehood.
A call for restraint came from a second direction yesterday -- relatives of a Palestinian youth caught with a suicide bomber's vest at an Israeli roadblock demanded that militants stop recruiting children.
In the most serious attack since the assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin on Monday, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians who opened fire on a civilian car and an Israeli outpost at a Jewish settlement in Gaza late yesterday, the military said.
After the shootings, Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered the area late yesterday. Palestinian security officials said 15 Israeli vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers, moved about 400 yards into areas next to the town of Deir el-Balah.
Despite the appeals for restraint, the Hamas military wing issued a rare videotaped statement yesterday, threatening retaliation against Israelis in graphic terms, after marking Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel as a target.
The statement pledged "a strong, earthshaking response to make the sons of monkeys and pigs taste a painful death."
However, some Palestinians are questioning whether violent resistance has done them more harm then good. Their economy has been decimated. Israeli checkpoints, closures, and other restrictions, which Israel says are necessary to stop attackers, have made their lives miserable.
Since violence erupted in September 2000, 2,762 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 942 on the Israeli side -- but Palestinians are hard pressed to show any accomplishments.
A group of respected Palestinians placed a half-page advertisement yesterday in the Palestine Liberation Organization's Al-Ayyam newspaper calling on Palestinians to lay down their arms and turn to peaceful means of protest toward ending Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Similar calls in the past have had little impact on public opinion, and yesterday's ad was greeted with little enthusiasm by many Palestinians.
The intellectuals who signed the ad -- including peace advocate Sari Nusseibeh, lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, and Abbas Zaki, a leading member of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement -- said revenge attacks over Yassin's assassination would lead to strong Israeli retaliation and further hurt the Palestinian cause.
Stepped-up security measures paid off for the Israelis on Wednesday when soldiers stopped 16-year-old Hussam Abdo, who had a suicide bomb vest strapped to his body, at a West Bank checkpoint, setting off a tense encounter with soldiers.
The teenager's family said he was gullible and easily manipulated, and demanded that militants stop using children for attacks.
"It is forbidden to send him to fight. He is young, he is small, he should be in school. Someone pressured him, maybe because they killed Ahmed Yassin," Abdo's mother, Tamam, said.