|October 2000 - Return to Complete Index MiddleEast.Org 10/07/00|
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U.S. THREATENS U.N. VETO
ISRAEL THREATENS ARAFAT
HEZBOLLAH THREATENS ISRAEL
JOSEPH'S TOMB DESTROYED - ISRAEL THREATENS TO RETAKE
"The destruction of Joseph's Tomb by members of a crowd of 2,000
who swarmed past Palestinian police protecting the site after the Israeli withdrawal,
brought angry condemnation from the Israeli government. They set fire to the
furniture, books and other items left behind by the Israelis then attacked the
building with crowbars and other instruments. After several hours, only the outer
walls of the small, round, five-room building remained standing. That section of
the building which housed the tomb was in flames... Demonstrators hoisted an
Islamic flag over the site, and Amin Maqbul, an official from Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat's faction Fatah, told the crowds: 'Today was the first step to
AFP, 8 October
"Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh warned that the
stop or else Syria would be 'the address of our response.' 'We consider Syria,
which controls Lebanon, as responsible for everything that happens there."
Ephraim Sneh on CNN, 7 Oct
U.S. THREATENS SECURITY COUNCIL VETO
SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION NOT LIKELY TO HAVE MUCH CREDIBILITY IN THE REGION
MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 10/07 - 5:45pm
Earlier today the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel had been agreed on after marathon negotiations. U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke sent it to the State Department and White House for approval. Hours later he reportedly sadly told a closed door meeting of the Security Council he had instructions to veto the resolution if submitted to a vote.
Meanwhile the Israelis publicly have threatened Arafat, suggesting they might even retake and directly rule over autonomous Palestinians areas now administed by the Palestinian Authority. Barak gave Arafat 48-hours. Other top Israelis officials, including the Deputy Defense Minister (Barak also serves as Defense Minister), have publicly threatened to attack both Syria and Lebanon.
Hezbollah for its part has issued strong warnings against Israel while at the same time suggesting a hostage trade -- the Israelis soldiers now being held for the 19 Lebanese, including Hezbollah official Sheik Obeid, kidnapped and held by Israel.
The next hours and days will tell if the orgy of violence will further spiral into greater levels of death and even general warfare.
Barak Issues 48-Hour Ultimatum
by KARIN LAUB
JERUSALEM (AP - 7 Oct 4pm) -- Prime Minister Ehud Barak issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Yasser Arafat on Saturday, saying that that unless the Palestinian leader stops violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel will call off peace talks and let Israeli troops act with full force.
The strong statement from the embattled prime minister came after Hezbollah guerrillas seized three Israeli soldiers in an ambush Saturday at the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Arafat's top adviser, Nabil Aburdeneh, accused Barak of employing ''blackmail that can only lead the region to wars we don't want,'' but did not say what the Palestinians' next move would be.
Barak vowed to win the soldiers' return, warning Lebanon and Syria -- the main power broker in the country -- that they were responsible for the captives' safety. At the same time, his deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said Israel was ready to ''fight on two fronts'' -- the Lebanese border as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
''We have enough strength for that. We shall have to be less restrained than we were in the past,'' Sneh said.
Barak said he was no longer convinced Arafat was ready for a peace agreement, blaming Arafat for the clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters that have killed 80 -- most Palestinians.
Arafat ''has apparently chosen violence and he will bear the responsibility for the consequences of that choice,'' Barak said
''Until now, my orders were to exercise restraint, not to initiate, but just to react,'' Barak told a news conference after convening his Cabinet and army commanders for an emergency session.
''If we do not see a change in the patterns of violence in the next two days, we will see this as the cessation of the peace talks by Arafat,'' he said, ''and will instruct the Israeli Defense Forces and the security forces to use all means at their disposal to stop the violence.'' An Israeli government statement warned of ''forceful action'' to ensure the safety of Israeli troops and communities along the border.
Barak has come under growing pressure to take tougher steps. Members of his Cabinet urged him Saturday to form a national unity government with the hawkish opposition Likud party. That would make resuming negotiations with the Palestinians difficult, since Likud is vehemently opposed to concessions.
Barak's announcement came as violence sharply declined in the Palestinian territories Saturday -- but it followed the trashing Saturday morning of Joseph's Tomb, a holy site in the West Bank town of Nablus, by Palestinians.
Barak ordered Israeli troops withdrawn from the site, putting it in control of Palestinian security forces. Within hours, a mob overwhelmed the site, burning parts and tearing up Jewish holy books left by seminary students. The scenes, broadcast on television, were considered a humiliation by many Israelis.
Until now, the army has used assault rifles, snipers and rockets launched from helicopters to disperse Palestinian gunmen. Israel has trained tank guns on Palestinian towns as a warning, but has not fired.
A combative Arafat, speaking before Barak set his deadline, blamed Israel for what he said was a ''dangerous escalation'' in the Palestinian areas and the Arab world.
Developments in the north, meanwhile, ended the relative peace enjoyed at the Israeli-Lebanese border since Barak decided to withdraw Israeli troops from southern Lebanon in May.
Earlier Saturday, hundreds of Palestinian refugees charged toward the border fence from the Lebanese side, hurling stones at Israeli soldiers. Troops opened fire, killing one Palestinian and wounding 14.
Barak said he was holding intense diplomatic contacts to try to win the freedom of the three Israeli soldiers. He said he has spoken three times by phone to President Clinton over the last 24 hours and has also been in touch with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. After nightfall, Israeli transport helicopters airlifted forces to the northern border.
The three soldiers were captured in what appeared to be a carefully planned Hezbollah ambush soon afterward. Israel TV's Channel Two said guerrillas fired rockets at an Israeli post in the disputed Chebaa farms border region, claimed by both Lebanon and Israel. When Israeli troops arrived at the scene in an open truck, guerrillas fired more rockets, cut through the fence and snatched three soldiers. The captives were driven away in a civilian car, the TV report said.
Israeli helicopters later searched the area, while Helicopter gunships lay down machine-gun fire on roads, injuring a family of four, Lebanese security officials said.
Hezbollah said in a statement that it dedicated the raid to 12-year-old Mohammed Aldura, a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli fire during a gunbattle in the Gaza Strip last week. The boy's terrifying last moments, as he and his father huddled behind a metal barrel, were broadcast around the world.
Meanwhile, one Palestinian was killed in clashes in Gaza, and two died of injuries sustained Friday. Later Saturday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on several Israeli outposts and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Still, it was the quietest day since the violence was triggered by a Sept. 28 visit of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to a contested holy shrine in Jerusalem.
A sovereignty dispute over the shrine, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, led to a breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in July.
Israel's withdrawal from Joseph's Tomb came in an attempt to reduce friction at the site, where an Israeli border policeman and six Palestinians have been killed in daily firefights over the past week.
The army said it had assurances by Palestinian security force that they would protect the tomb, But within hours, hundreds of Palestinian civilians stormed the site.
Palestinian officials demanded that Israel dismantle other small outposts and isolated Jewish settlements to reduce friction further.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Nafez Azzam, a spokesman of the militant
group Islamic Jihad, thanked Hezbollah for the capture of the Israeli soldiers.
''This will give us a push to continue our struggle against the occupiers,'' Azzam told Associated Press Television News. ''What happened today at Joseph's Tomb and what happened in Lebanon proves that fighting is the only solution with them.''
UN PRESSED FOR VOTE
by EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP - 3pm) -- Despite serious U.S. concerns, nations that support the Palestinians were pressing for a vote Saturday on a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemns the ''excessive'' use of force against Palestinians without directly naming Israel.
President Clinton personally asked for a delay in the council vote early Saturday morning after a final draft resolution was offered that the United States said it had little choice but to veto. The 15-member council met again behind closed doors Saturday afternoon, and members of the Non-Aligned Movement, which backs the Palestinians, were expected to push for a vote, diplomats said.
The latest draft calls for the immediate resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving ''an early final settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.'' At U.S. request, it deletes an explicit condemnation of Israel, but it includes other critical language that U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said Washington couldn't live with.
The United States, Israel's closest ally on the council, objects to language which puts the council on record as deploring the ''provocation'' at a holy site in Jerusalem on Sept. 28 that sparked a week of violence. It also would condemn the ''excessive use of force'' against Palestinians that followed. It doesn't explicitly blame Israel, but the criticism is implicit.
Before the meeting started, Holbrooke said Saturday's seizure of three Israeli soldiers by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas ''just accentuates the extreme seriousness of the situation, and the need to work on a resolution which gets it right, and is appropriate to the facts on the ground.''
Israeli U.N. Ambassador Yehuda Lancry said Israel would like to see
the resolution dropped because the situation in the region is deteriorating.
''This violence spread to the Israeli-Lebanese border, so I think that we need a second look (by) the Security Council on all the situation and we hope for a decision in this sense,'' he said.
But Chinese U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan called for a quick vote.
''I think it's high time that the Security Council should have a resolution because what has happened in the occupied lands in Palestine is the work of the world people,'' he said.
The negotiations come as clashes in the Mideast have left 80 people killed, most of them Palestinian, and more than 1,900 injured.
The Palestinians, backed by Arab and Muslim nations, say the bloodshed was set off by a Sept. 28 visit to a key Jerusalem holy site -- known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif -- by right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon. Israel says Sharon had a right to visit the temple compound and blames the Palestinians for starting the wave of violence.
The United States had tried to head off a Security Council resolution altogether, arguing that any council action would only jeopardize delicate efforts led by U.S. officials to try to end the bloodshed.
Elsewhere Saturday, Palestinian protesters hurled stones and fireworks
at a synagogue in the western German city of Essen in a demonstration against
Israeli violence. Police said about 60 people were arrested. Around 300
demonstrators marched through the center of the city during the day.
Police in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, said demonstrators threw stones at officers outside the Israeli embassy. About 200 demonstrators later marched to the U.S. embassy shouting ''Clinton murderer, Barak murderer,'' the Swedish news agency TT said.
Peaceful demonstrations also took place in a number of other German cities and in Rome.
Also Saturday, the European Union criticized the sacking of an Israeli enclave in occupied Palestinian territory known as Joseph's Tomb. A statement from the 15-member EU said the body ''condemns without reserve'' Saturday's events in the West Bank town of Nablus, where Palestinian gunmen and civilians stormed the Israeli enclave, ripping apart sacred Hebrew texts and setting fire to parts of the compound just hours after Israeli troops evacuated the site.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan telephoned French President Jacques
Chirac to express his concern about the increasingly tense situation after
the sacking, presidential spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said. France currently
holds the EU's rotating presidency.
WEST BANK HOLY SITE DESTROYED BY WAR
by JAMIE TARABAY
NABLUS, West Bank (AP - 7 Oct) -- Joseph's Tomb, the flashpoint in a week of bitter West Bank clashes, is now a casualty of war.
The steps leading down to the tomb are strewn with stones chipped off the walls. The top of the dome is smashed through in two places. Inside the tomb, soggy books, burned sleeping bags and scattered cans of food litter the muddy floor, and the walls are charred black from fire.
But the stone sarcophagus is untouched, perhaps the one object still respected at this holy site, revered by some as the burial place of the biblical patriarch. The compound was home to a Jewish seminary, where about 30 students would study during the day.
The Israeli army evacuated the outpost before dawn on Saturday, after clashes there last week killed six Palestinians and an Israeli border policeman. The seminary had been closed during the violence.
Palestinian security officials were left standing guard as hundreds
of Palestinians converged on the square in front of the site, cheering
With the arrival of dozens of Palestinian gunmen, the celebration degenerated into a trashing of the compound, with crowds vandalizing the tomb, setting fires and hammering away at the stone buildings.
''We did it so the Jews never come back,'' said Haitham Najid Kabee, 14, who vandalized the tomb with his friends.
Nablus Gov. Mahmoud Aloul came to the square to plead with the vandals to stop.
''We should protect this building and make it a symbol for our martyrs who were killed defending it,'' said Aloul, whose son was killed in clashes last week. ''We will stop here together and prevent any Jews from coming back to this place.''
But the governor's call went unheeded. Demonstrators threw Jewish prayer books from the tomb, burning and tearing them. Some laughing teens walked out of the compound wearing Israeli helmets and vests found inside.
Dozens climbed on the roof of the tomb and began hammering, breaking off chunks of rock. By late afternoon, firefighters had put out three fires in the compound.
People still wandered curiously around the small enclave, now topped by a large flag of the radical Islamic group Hamas, and a smaller Palestinian flag.
''I am very happy,'' said Nidal Abdel Jawad, 40. ''It was still occupation as long as they were here.''
The withdrawal of troops from the tomb marked the first time Israel has relinquished territory as a direct result of Palestinian violence.
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said the enclave had become a liability. But after the destruction that followed the withdrawal, Israeli officials were furious.
''The Palestinians betrayed their commitment and have let this shrine fall into the hands of the mob waiting outside,'' said Israeli government spokesman Nahman Shai. He said the government ''deeply deplores'' the trashing of the tomb.
A statement by the 15-member European Union also condemned the destruction.
The tomb's holiness is disputed, as tradition holds that Joseph was actually buried in Egypt; the connection of the site to Joseph is a relatively recent local Arab tradition also observed by some Jews.
''What I want to understand is if Joseph is not buried there, why this place was so important,'' said Abdul Fateh Sayed, 62, whose bookstore across the street was hit by stray bullets in the fighting.
''Now it's over. We are very happy,'' he said, leafing through a thick
law book, its pages shot through by bullets. ''There should never have
been a military base in a civilian area.''
ISRAEL FACES WAR ON TWO FRONTS AS
FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN LEBANON
JERUSALEM, Oct (AFP - 8 October 12:06am) - Israel faced a war on two fronts Saturday after more than a week of clashes with the Palestinians when Lebanese Islamist Hezbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli troops on Lebanon's southern border, capturing three of them.
The incident, following the killing of two Palestinians demonstrating at the border against the violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, brought warnings of Israeli retaliation against Lebanon and its controlling power, Syria.
Earlier in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army withdrew from the Joseph's Tomb religious site, one of the main flashpoints of violence over the past week.
Despite the pleas of the Palestinians' governor for Nablus, Mahmud al-Alul, dozens of Palestinians promptly took up iron bars, pickaxes and hammers and destroyed the shrine, which religious Jews believe is the burial site of the biblical patriarch Joseph.
The violence, which has killed some 90 people since September 29, spread for the first time into Lebanon, where Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians and wounded 13 others who threw stones onto the Israeli side of the border.
Hezbollah, which spearheaded the guerrilla campaign against Israel's
22-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May, hit back with
50 salvoes of Katyusha rockets, mortars and grenades at Israeli positions
in the disputed Shebaa Farms region, which Israel said injured three soldiers.
Israel responded with an air strike that injured four Lebanese civilians, according to Lebanese security sources.
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh warned that the violence
must stop or else Syria would be "the address of our response."
"We consider Syria, which controls Lebanon, as responsible for everything that happens there," Sneh told CNN television.
Syrian officials must "do their utmost to stop the aggression immediately in order to prevent an extension of this aggression and all the inevitable results that may come out of it," he said.
But a Lebanese government official, as quoted by the national news agency ANI, said Israel must free all Lebanese prisoners at once if it wants its hostages back, rather than "reacting with warnings."
The Islamic Resistance, Hezbollah's military wing, said in a statement that the hostages had been taken to a safe place and would be used "to liberate all our prisoners (in Israeli jails) and liberate every inch of our occupied territory and assist our Palestinian brothers in their Intifada (uprising)."
Hezbollah also threatened to respond "severely and comprehensively to ... any aggression against Lebanon under any pretext," saying it would target settlements in northern Israel.
The destruction of Joseph's Tomb by members of a crowd of 2,000 people who swarmed past Palestinian police protecting the site after the Israeli withdrawal, brought angry condemnation from the Israeli government.
They set fire to the furniture, books and other items left behind by
the Israelis then attacked the building with crowbars and other instruments.
After several hours, only the outer walls of the small, round, five-room building remained standing.
That section of the building which housed the tomb was in flames, but there was no immediate indication of what started the fire.
Demonstrators hoisted an Islamic flag over the site, and Amin Maqbul, an official from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's faction Fatah, told the crowds: "Today was the first step to liberate al-Aqsa."
Control over al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam's third holiest site, is the major obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty and it was a visit to the place by Israeli ultra-nationalist Ariel Sharon on September 27 that set off the wave of violent protests.
Israel's commander for the West Bank, Benny Ganz, described the ransacking of Joseph's Tomb as "catastrophic" and said Israel was considering retaking the shrine.
He said Palestinian authorities had given promises to safeguard the holy site before Israel decided to withdraw early Saturday.
"Unfortunately someone did not deliver the goods," he said. "Now we are assessing the whole situation."
"If we cannot cooperate with them then we will have to choose our own
methods," Ganz added. "We thought we had partners; it seems that we didn't."
The United States meanwhile urged an immediate ceasefire so Israel and the Palestinians could return to the bargaining table.
"Otherwise, if this continues, the violence will continue to spiral out of control with more destruction, more death. None of us want to see that take place," US Defense Secretary William Cohen said on a visit to Tunisia.
The White House said President Bill Clinton spoke to both Barak and Arafat on the telephone and cancelled a trip to the state of Ohio so he could address the mounting violence.
Elsewhere, demonstrators continued to protest against Israel in a number
of Arab countries including Egypt, where 22 people were injured in clashes
between students and police in Cairo, and in Damascus, scene of similar
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