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September 2000 - Return to Monthly Index           MiddleEast.Org 9/30/00
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ISRAELI ARMY TARGETS PALESTINIANS throughout occupied territories and Jerusalem


MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 30 September 2000:
   Throughout the occupied territories, including Gaza, the Israeli army remains present and in charge.  In recent days the army even entered the limited areas supposedly under the complete control of the "Palestinian Authority" under the guise of "chasing terrorists".  This summary of what took place yesterday in Jerusalem comes from The Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.  Today, Saturday, reports are coming in of Israeli Army shootings of Palestinians throughout the occupied territories as well as in Gaza and Jerusalem.


JERUSALEM - September 29, 2000, 9:30 PM - Following yesterday's provocative
visit to the Haram Al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock complex) by former defense
minister and Member of Knesset Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Forces
and police increased armed presence in and around Al-Aqsa mosque and
throughout the Old City of Jerusalem.

Today, as worshippers exited Al-Aqsa mosque after the Friday noon prayer,
they were confronted by Israeli police officers and soldiers who refused to
allow them to exit peacefully.  Instead, many worshippers were stopped,
searched and humiliated at the gates of the complex.

As a result of this further provocation by the Israeli authorities, clashes
erupted between the civilians and army and police personnel.  Soldiers and
police fired high-velocity ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas
indiscriminately at the worshippers for more than two hours.  Some
worshippers were shot while still inside the mosque.  Snipers with live
ammunition fired directly into the crowd.

Over two hundred civilians were injured, and of those, six were shot in the
head.  As of now, five Palestinians have died from injuries sustained at
the hands of the Israeli forces.

Following the violence in the Old City of Jerusalem, demonstrations and
clashes broke out in other parts of East Jerusalem, as well as in the West
Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Ar-Ram, Hebron, and the Qalandia
refugee camp.  At these locations, Israeli soldiers used severe force in an
attempt to disperse the civilian demonstrators.  As of 6 P.M., over 400
Palestinians throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been injured.
 Many received on-site first aid treatment from fellow Palestinians.  The
most severely injured were transferred to area hospitals.

Our teams in the hospitals examined victims wounded by both rubber bullets
and high-velocity ammunition.  Among the wounded are elderly men like
Mohammed Abu-Libdi, age 68, Issa Zawahneh, age 70, and many older women
including Noha Khader, age 49.  Some of the injured received multiple
gunshot wounds, including Adel Hussein Odeh, age 25, who was hit by three
bullets in the wrist and both legs.  Our teams also report that six people
lost eyes.

The army has surrounded Al-Maqassed and Augusta Victoria hospitals and is
preventing the injured and their family members from accessing the facilities.



JERUSALEM (Sept. 30), Reuters, by Wafa Amr - Israeli troops and Palestinian police exchanged fire in a third day of clashes on Saturday, further damaging chances of securing an Arab-Israeli peace deal.

About 200 Palestinians were wounded in the violence sweeping the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the death toll rose to at least seven from violence earlier this week.

It started after right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon -- a figure of hatred for Palestinians -- visited a site in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

Witnesses said Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers opened fire during clashes near a Jewish settlement in Gaza on Saturday, and medical sources said more than 70 Palestinians had been injured in the violence there.

Israeli security forces also opened fire in the West Bank city of Nablus when hundreds of Palestinians marched towards an army checkpoint. Witnesses reported three people hurt.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. Some threw stones and others hurled petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers and at least 60 people were injured.

In Jerusalem, Israeli police said Palestinians threw stones at cars and buses and, as a security precaution, police evacuated worshippers from the Western Wall of the Old City where Jews were reciting prayers on the Jewish New Year.

Dozens of other people were reported injured in isolated clashes across the West Bank.

The Israeli army said it had used live ammunition in Gaza to target people ''endangering soldiers,'' as well as rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas there and elsewhere.

                       ''PROVOCATIVE'' VISIT BY SHARON BLAMED

Palestinian leaders had called a one-day general strike in memory of Palestinians killed on Friday during clashes at the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Harim al-Sharif.

They blamed the violence on the Israeli authorities' show of force and the ''provocative'' visit by Sharon to the Old City.

A total of at least 400 Israelis and Palestinians, and several tourists, have been reported injured so far.

The explosion of Arab-Israeli violence soured not only Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's Barak's New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, weekend but also his push for lasting peace with the Palestinians.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan telephoned Barak as well as Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Friday.

''He expressed his concern over the recent violence in Jerusalem and urged the leaders to do everything they can to reduce tensions, restore security and continue to work towards a peaceful settlement of the remaining issues that divide them,'' U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Arafat arrived in Cairo to discuss the violence with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of Washington and president of one of the only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel.

Egyptian radio reported Mubarak had issued a statement blaming ''provocative Israeli actions'' for Friday's clashes in Jerusalem, the main stumbling block in the peace process.

''A statement issued by the Egyptian Presidency noted that, at a time when the peace-loving forces were looking forward to a breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, they were taken aback by the bloody incidents that too place yesterday (Friday),'' the radio said.

                           SAUDIS BLAME ISRAEL

Palestinian Minister Nabil Shaath said he was due to leave on Sunday to meet foreign ministers of Luxembourg, France, Britain, Ireland and Belgium and top European Union officials at Arafat's request to brief them on the bloodshed.

Saudi Arabia, another staunch ally of the United States and supporter of Washington's role as Middle East peace broker, put the blame for the violence squarely on Israel.

''Saudi Arabia condemns the brutal assaults inflicted on Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem by Israeli occupation forces,'' the Saudi Press Agency quoted an official statement as saying on Friday night.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to the world's two main Muslim shrines.

Gulf media railed against the ''horrific massacre'' of Palestinians in Jerusalem and one newspaper in Qatar said the killings showed Israel was still the Arabs' foe.

''The events prove that Israel was neither a neighbor nor a peace partner. It is no more than an enemy,'' Al-Sharq's editorial said.

In south Lebanon on Saturday, thousands of Palestinian refugees demonstrated against the killings. They marched through Ain el-Hilweh, the biggest refugee camp in Lebanon, chanting anti-Israeli slogans and burning an effigy of Sharon.

''Sharon, we will never forget your massacres in Sabra and Shatila. The Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) is Arab and will remain Arab,'' read one banner.

In 1983 an Israeli inquiry found Sharon indirectly responsible for the killing of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. He was defense minister at the time, during an Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Russia called on Palestinians and Israelis to stop further bloodshed from derailing the peace talks.

''Moscow is extremely alarmed,'' a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said on Saturday.

''These tragic events are the consequences of provocative acts in the area of Muslim holy sites on September 28,'' it said in apparent criticism of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.


GAZA, Sept 30 (Reuters - 7:38Aam) - Palestinian police fired shots at Israeli soldiers in the self-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday after 29 Palestinians were hurt in clashes near a Jewish settlement, witnesses said.

Violence flared in Gaza on the third day of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in a number of places in Israel and the West Bank.

There was no immediate word of casualties after the Palestinian police opened fire but medical sources said before the shooting that dozens of people had been hurt in clashes.

Palestinian and Israeli security have exchanged fire several times during clashes since Israel and the Palestinians signed interim peace accords in 1993.


                      GUNFIRE ERUPTS IN JERUSALEM

JERUSALEM (AP, by Jamie Tarabay, 10:37am) - A gun battle erupted Saturday between masked Palestinians and Israeli troops, as thousands of rock-throwing rioters clashed with soldiers across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem in what Palestinian leaders said was a religious war over a bitterly contested Jerusalem shrine.

Palestinian officials said about 280 demonstrators were injured, including one who was comatose with a bullet wound in the head.

``The battle for Jerusalem has begun,'' said Bassem Naim, an activist of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement in the West Bank town of Nablus.

The worst violence erupted south of Nablus, where thousands of angry Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli troops manning a checkpoint. At first, Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel pellets to keep back the crowd. Thick smoke from burning tires rose into the air and rocks littered the street.

At one point, about a dozen masked Palestinians, crouching behind walls and olive trees, fired on Israeli troops with M-16 assault rifles. Israeli troops returned fire. The gun battle still raged after more than an hour.

Clashes erupted across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

``We are ready to die for Al Aqsa,'' said Mohammed Jabari, a protester from the West Bank town of Hebron, referring to the disputed Jerusalem shrine. ``Israel is playing with fire when it touches Al Aqsa.''

Palestinians say the trigger for the violence was a visit Thursday by Israel's hawkish opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, to the disputed Jerusalem hilltop known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. Al Aqsa is one of two major mosques in the walled compound.

In clashes at the compound Friday, six Palestinians were killed and close to 200 wounded. Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader in the West Bank, said he expected confrontations to intensify in the coming days.

``The way the Israelis are behaving now in the Palestinian territories and Israel's reluctance to express regret over what it has done at the mosque is encouraging the spread of the confrontations,'' he said.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders traded angry accusations, signaling that in the current tense climate it will be very difficult to conclude a peace treaty.

Palestinian peace negotiator Nabil Shaath said Israeli security forces committed ``premeditated murder'' at the Jerusalem shrine. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the riots were a result of incitement and demanded that the Palestinian Authority and Islamic clerics try to calm the situation.

Across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, Palestinians observed a general strike and day of mourning Saturday. Shops were closed and children were sent home from school. Israel barred its citizens from entering the Palestinian-controlled areas to avoid further friction.

In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians marched toward the isolated Jewish settlements of Kfar Darom and Netzarim and threw stones at Israeli troops who responded with rubber bullets and some live rounds.

``We are here because we were humiliated in the heart of our most sacred place,'' said Hassan Abu Ali, 17, a Palestinian flag wrapped around his head as he threw stones at soldiers outside Netzarim.

The Jerusalem shrine is revered by Jews as the home of their biblical Temple, the most sacred shrine of Judaism. The walled compound is also the third holiest site of Islam, home to two major mosques that mark the spot where tradition says the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are hung up because of rival sovereignty claims to the shrine. Neither side wants the other to have full control. All U.S. compromise proposals have been rejected so far by the negotiators.

In visiting the shrine Thursday, Sharon, who staunchly opposes concessions to the Palestinians, said he wanted to demonstrate that Israel is in control there.

The Palestinians accused the Israeli government of having ignited a ``religious war'' because it did not stop Sharon from visiting the shrine.

Jerusalem's hawkish mayor, Ehud Olmert, a member of Sharon's Likud party, accused Palestinian security forces of orchestrating the violence.

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