Disorder on Holy Day
New Clashes in West Bank, Gaza Strip; Twelve More Dead
By Jaime Tarabay
The Associated Press
J E R U S A L E M, Sept. 30 - Thousands of Palestinian rock throwers and
several gunmen clashed with Israeli troops today in what Palestinians said
was a religious war over a bitterly contested Jerusalem shrine. At least
12 Palestinians, including two teen-agers, were killed and 325
It was the second day of deadly clashes in what has become the worst
violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in four years. On Friday, six
Palestinians were killed and close to 200 were injured.
'Battle for Jerusalem'
"The battle for Jerusalem has begun," said Bassem Naim, a Palestinian
Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops exchanged fire in two areas,
near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza and south of the West Bank
town of Nablus.
At the Netzarim junction, a Palestinian fired shots at an Israeli
army outpost from behind a red truck. Soldiers returned fire, and several
Palestinians took cover on the ground, covering their heads with their
hands, their faces pressed on the asphalt. One Palestinian man screamed in
pain when he was shot in the knee. Paramedics ran into the line of fire to
drag him to safety.
Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported three dead - a 12-year-old boy,
a Palestinian policeman and an ambulance driver. A fourth Palestinian,
from the town of Khan Yunis, was comatose with a bullet wound to the head.
In the West Bank, six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire,
including five who died in a gun battle between a dozen masked gunmen and
Israeli troops near Nablus. The gunmen crouched behind walls and olive
trees as they aimed at the Israelis who took cover behind jeeps.
"The Israelis must understand that Palestinians can also shoot and
kill," said a 25-year-old gunman armed with an M-16 assault rifle who
would not give his name.
Hospital officials initially said one of those killed in Nablus was a
14-year-old boy. However, the victim's parents gave his age as 16.
Smoke, Rocks and Trash Cans
Violence erupted across the West Bank, Gaza and Arab neighborhoods of
Jerusalem. Huge plumes of black smoke from burning tires rose high above
Palestinian towns, and streets were littered with rocks and overturned
In Hebron, rioters running out of rocks had them ferried to the scene
in taxis. Helmeted Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel pellets and
live rounds from behind jeeps and walls.
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 al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
In clashes at the compound Friday, six Palestinians were killed and
close to 200 wounded. "We're going to teach them not to touch our holy
place," said Khalil Natash, 21, a stone-thrower in the West Bank town of
Hebron, who carried a black flag of mourning for those killed. "We will
burn the ground underneath the Israelis to stop them from touching our
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak appealed to Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat to restore calm. He said Israel has been showing "maximum
restraint," but would do what was necessary to protect its citizens and
restore order. The violence erupted as Israelis marked the Jewish New
Barak's senior policy adviser, Danny Yatom, said he believed there
was still a possibility to resume peace negotiations once the violence has
died down. "I really hope the peace process won't be hurt, but I can't be
sure," Yatom said.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are hung up because of rival
sovereignty claims to the Jerusalem shrine. Neither side wants the other
to have full control. All U.S. compromise proposals have been rejected so
far by the negotiators.
Palestinian peace negotiator Nabil Shaath said Israeli security
forces committed "premeditated murder" at the Jerusalem shrine Friday. The
violence underscored Palestinian demands that Israel must withdraw from
east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians claim as a future capital,
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 has been done at the
mosque is encouraging the spread of the confrontations," he said.
Many Israelis felt the Palestinians were responsible. "Despite the
fact that there is a peace process, they [the Palestinians] want to ruin
everything," said Meirav Buchbut, 21, a bookkeeper from the town of
Netanya. "There won't be peace. There will only be war."
Across the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, Palestinians
today observed a general strike and day of mourning. Shops were closed and
children were sent home from school. Israel barred its citizens from
entering the Palestinian-controlled areas to avoid further friction.