The figures are brutal. Adjusted for the size of the U.S. population, if the Israeli occupation were taking place in the U.S. more than 300,000 Americans would have been killed in the past 4 years alone, well over a million seriously injured, and large numbers of homes destroyed and lands confiscated.
Two Palestinians killed on intifada anniversary, CNN staffer released
JENIN, West Bank (AFP - 28 Sept 2004) - Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as the Palestinian uprising entered its fifth year, and a CNN producer was released 24 hours after being kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza City.
Mahmud Ibzur, 16, was fatally hit in the chest during clashes between troops and stone throwers protesting the second day of a large army search and arrest operation in northern West Bank town of Jenin and its refugee camp.
Earlier in Jenin, troops shot dead Saleh Bilalu, a 47-year-old mentally ill man, after he violated a army curfew.
Palestinian medics said Bilalu died of a bullet wound to the stomach, but Israeli military sources insisted he was shot in the leg and subsequently fell off a roof.
The deaths took to 4,346 the overall toll since the start of the intifada or uprising four years ago, including 3,327 Palestinians and 948 Israelis.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's chief advisor, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the anniversary was an occasion for a renewed effort for a negotiated solution.
"The only way to bring peace is through a ceasefire, an end to assassinations and a return to the negotiating table," he said.
"The Palestinian people is holding out for its rights and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. That is the only way to reach peace, security and stability in the region."
The intifada was sparked when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then leader of the opposition, made a controversial visit to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.
The compound was at the center of a renewed controversy Tuesday after Israeli officials warned they might restrict access by worshippers during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which starts next month, for safety reasons.
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said a section of the complex was in danger of collapsing, making it necessary to impose restrictions on numbers.
But both Jordan and Egypt insisted the safety concerns were spurious, and Jerusalem's top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ekrima Sabri charged they were just a pretext for Israel to get its hands on the compound, which is also the holiest site in Judaism.
In Gaza City, CNN producer Riad Ali was set free by his kidnappers, police chief General Saeb al-Ajez told AFP.
No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the Arab Israeli journalist.
But the US network said it had received a video tape in which the abduction appeared to have been carried out by members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement.
And Ali told reporters immediately after his release that his abductors "had presented themselves as members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigdes, but I can't tell whether they really were or not."
A leader of the group in Gaza told AFP the Brigades had nothing to do with the abduction.
"Those who kidnapped the journalist are a small group which has nothing to do with the Brigades and only represents itself," said Abu Qussai, as he urged Arafat's Palestinian Authority to bring the culprits -- whom he said numbered five -- to justice.
"I look forward to being reunited with my family, my wife and children," Ali said as he expressed his gratitude for Arafat and Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei's efforts in helping secure his release.
Earlier, Arafat's office said the Palestinian leader was personally following up the matter and had ordered his security services to work on Ali's liberation
It was the first time a journalist had been kidnapped in the Palestinian territories, although several Palestinian officials were seized by militants and disgruntled former security men over the summer.
In England, meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday he would make the revival of the Middle East peace process his "personal priority" after the November US presidential election.
"Two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in an enduring peace, would do more to defeat this terrorism than bullets alone can ever do," he told delegates to the annual conference of his Labour Party in Brighton.
Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have been completely frozen amid persistent violence as internationally-sponsored peace efforts stalled.