NABLUS, West Bank, March 30 (AFP) - Saturday, March 31 1:08 AM SGT : Clashes raged across the Palestinian territories Friday, killing five Palestinians, as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged fiery rhetoric on the traditionally violent anniversary of a 1976 Israeli crackdown on Arab demonstrators.
Four Palestinians were killed, all by live bullets to the head or neck, in the West Bank city of Nablus when Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at them.
Thirty-six other Palestinians were injured in the demonstration, two-thirds of them by live bullets.
Shortly earlier in Ramallah, a 21-year-old Palestinian was also shot dead and 11 other Palestinians injured, hospital sources said, when soldiers clashed with some 2,000 Palestinians who burned pictures of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and waved Palestinian and Iraqi flags.
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs had both been called on to demonstrate on Friday, or "Land Day," the 25th anniversary of the the Israeli army's killing of six Israeli Arabs during protests over the seizure of Arab lands in northern Israel.
The protests, which also fell on a weekly Palestinian "day of rage" against Israel, come two days after Israeli helicopters pounded bases of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Force 17 elite bodyguard unit, killing two, in response to a string of bombings that left four people dead, two of them suicide bombers.
An angry Arafat, returning Thursday from an Arab summit in Jordan, declared that the six-month-old Palestinian uprising would continue until "until the Palestinian flag flies over Jerusalem, capital of the future Palestinian state."
US President George W. Bush called on the two sides to take immediate steps to quell the violence, but singled out Arafat as not doing enough to promote peace.
"The signal I'm sending to the Palestinians is stop the violence. ... I hope Chairman Arafat hears it loud and clear," Bush told a White House press conference Thursday.
"Our goal is to encourage a series of reciprocal and parallel steps by both sides that will halt the escalation of violence, provide safety and security for civilans on both sides, and restore normalcy to the lives of everyone in the region," he said.
Arafat and the rest of the Palestinian leadership will discuss Bush's remarks at their weekly meeting Friday evening, said information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, who declined to comment himself on the the president's statement.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat blasted the United States on another issue, its veto Tuesday of a UN Security Council resolution that would have authorized an international observer force in the Palestinian territories.
"It seems Washington has decided to provide protection for the occupier, that is to say Israel, and to disregard the right to an international protection force for the Palestinian people under occupation," Erakat told Cairo radio.
Bush also said that in meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak next week and Jordan's King Abdullah II the week after he would "seek their help in defusing the tensions."
He said he hoped the two Arab leaders would try to persuade Arafat to speak out against violence and strongly suggested Arafat would not be invited to the White House until he acts.
But Arab newspapers denounced the United States, with the Al-Khaleej daily in the United Arab Emirates declaring that "the American campaign against Arafat ... is as serious as the attacks carried out by the Zionist entity."
"Israel wouldn't be able to defy the world if it hadn't full US support," said Al-Baath, the mouthpiece of Syria's ruling party.
In comments sure to infuriate Israel, Al-Baath declared that "Israel, society and officials alike, does not seek peace and that they are in truth racists and more Nazi than the Nazis."
At the Ain el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, some 6,000 people demonstrated and pledged to "strike at the interests of the United States," Israel's main political and military ally.
Hoping to present Israel's case to the world, it was announced that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will travel Monday to Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, for two days of talks, before visiting other European countries.
The EU issued a statement Friday in Stockholm calling on "both parties to act with maximum restraint, restore calm and do their utmost to prevent actions resulting in new victims."
Clashes also took place Friday in the Gaza Strip, where 16 young Palestinians were injured.
Israeli tanks also lobbed shells for the third straight day against an Arab neighborhood in the West Bank town of Hebron, which has been tense since Monday when a sniper shot dead a 10-month-old Jewish girl.
Shalevet Pass's family agreed to bury the girl on Sunday after initially refusing to hold a funeral until the Israeli army occupies an Arab district overlooking Hebron's Jewish quarter.
Also Friday, stones were thrown at Jews near the Wailing Wall in east Jerusalem following weekly prayers at the adjacent al-Aqsa mosque compound. No one was reported injured.
The shrine, Judaism's holiest and Islam's third most sacred, is the most bitterly disputed site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A September 28 visit there by Sharon, then Israel's opposition leader, set off the six months of clashes, which have now killed 461 people, most of them Palestinians.
JERUSALEM (AP) - Friday March 30, 2001 7:10 pm: Thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops Friday in a ``day of rage,'' their anger fueled by Israeli rocket attacks earlier this week and threats to recapture Palestinian lands. Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and more than 100 injured, including dozens hit by live Israeli fire.
Across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, demonstrators burned Israeli and U.S. flags, as well as effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In one march, led by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, the crowd chanted: ``Sharon, wait, Fatah is going to open your grave in Gaza.''
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which carried out two suicide bombings this week, killing two Israeli teen-agers, said more attacks would follow. ``Our message to Sharon is that we will not give up,'' said the Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.
In Israel's Arab communities, tens of thousands of people marched peacefully to mark ``Land Day,'' a symbol of Israel's 1.2-million strong Arab community's struggle for equality. Land Day is the annual commemoration of 1976 protests against land expropriation in which six Israeli Arabs were killed by police.
Friday's protests capped a tumultuous week of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks. In response to the flare-up, Arafat said the six-month-old Palestinian uprising would continue, and Sharon's defense minister warned that Israeli troops would re-enter Palestinian-controlled areas, if necessary.
In all, five Palestinians were killed and 81 wounded by Israeli fire Friday, Palestinian doctors said. Another 55 were hurt by rubber-coated steel bullets, according to hospital officials.
One of the fiercest clashes erupted in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Hundreds of Palestinians threw stones at troops who responded with rubber bullets and live rounds, killing a 21-year-old Palestinian. After an hour, Palestinian gunmen joined the confrontation, drawing heavy Israeli fire from tank-mounted machine guns. In the town of Nablus, four Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops.
In the divided town of Hebron, Palestinians fired at Jewish enclaves, and in return Israeli tanks shelled the neighborhood where the gunmen had taken up position. In the Gaza Strip, 30 gunmen from Arafat's Fatah group led a large march, firing in the air.
Mohammed Musallam, carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, said attacks against Israel would continue. ``If Sharon thinks for a second to reoccupy the Palestinian areas, he should prepare black bags for the remains of his soldiers,'' Musallam said.
Israel's defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, has said that Israel would send forces to ``any place we feel ... is endangering us.'' The Palestinians control about two-thirds of Gaza and 40 percent of the West Bank under interim peace deals signed since 1993.
In the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin, thousands of Arabs and some Jews joined Land Day commemorations. Marchers carried a large Palestinian flag in a show of solidarity with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Residents said that since the 1976 round of expropriations that sparked the initial protests, more land has been taken.
``Now the fight is about the land we have to live on, our houses. It has arrived at our bedrooms,'' said one of the marchers, who would only give his first name, Hassan. Marchers also laid wreaths at the graves of two Sakhnin residents killed in clashes last fall with Israeli troops. At the time, thousands of Israeli Arabs had staged anti-government protests to show their support for their Palestinian brethren.
At the most sensitive spot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, more than 100 Palestinians threw stones and several firebombs at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Police briefly evacuated Jewish worshippers from the nearby Western Wall, Judaism's holiest shrine, after stones were thrown there from the mosque area. At one point, undercover police arrested seven stone-throwers and dragged them away.
The turbulent week began with the killing of a 10-month-old Israeli baby by Palestinian fire, followed by suicide bombings that killed two Israeli teen-agers.
Before Friday, six Palestinians were killed in subsequent clashes with Israeli troops, including a rocket attack Wednesday night on the headquarters of Arafat's Force 17 security branch.
Sharon, having ordered his first military operation since taking office March 7, has charged that Arafat was responsible for promoting violence, and that his elite Force 17 guard was behind some of the attacks.
Defiant after inspecting smoldering rubble at a rocketed Force 17 base, Arafat said the uprising would continue ``until we raise the Palestinian flag in every mosque and church and on the walls of Jerusalem.''
In Washington, President Bush called on Arafat to stop attacks on Israelis. ``I
hope Chairman Arafat hears it loud and clear,'' Bush said Thursday. He also called
on Israel to show restraint and ease restrictions on the Palestinians.