Death Toll Rises as Palestinians Hold 'Day of Rage'
J E R U S A L E M, Oct. 6 - Fresh violence broke out today as the
Palestinians held a "Day of Rage," and another eight people were killed,
bringing the death toll in the past week to 77. The fighting continues.
Israeli troops shot at Palestinian rioters in a series of intense gun
battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip today, and police stormed a
bitterly contested holy site in Jerusalem to disperse hundreds of young
Palestinians and tear down Palestinian flags.
While the violence was less deadly than in recent days, Palestinians
undertook a series of provocative acts, including raising the Palestinian
flag over the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and throwing stones at the
Western or Wailing Wall, a strong symbol of the Jewish faith.
The violence came after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah
movement and the militant Islamic opposition group Hamas declared today to
be a "day of rage," and called for confrontations with Israeli soldiers.
Israeli police stormed the shrine - known to Muslims as al-Haram
al-Sharif and called the Temple Mount by the Jews - after the Muslim
Friday prayers to disperse hundreds of Palestinian protesters who had been
throwing stones and petrol bombs at security forces, police spokesman
Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
As a relative calm swept over Jerusalem this evening, the Israeli
police force went into the Temple Mount compound - but not into the
Al-Aqsa mosque - to disband protesters and bring down the Palestinian
flag. The flag issue is a highly emotional one and could lead to more
The site will remain closed through the Jewish Sabbath, as it
customarily is. In addition to the Sabbath, Saturday also marks the
anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
A Week of Violence
The bloodshed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip today has brought the death
toll from nine days of violence to at least 77. Most of the casualties
More than 1,900 people have been wounded in the clashes that followed
a visit to the holy site by Israeli right-wing opposition leader Ariel
Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak, criticized
police's decision not use more force to quell the protesters. The police
were trying to keep situation from escalating, but the mere presence of
police inside the compound sent tensions soaring higher.
Senior Israeli legislators complained today that Palestinians should
never have been allowed inside the temple compound, telling reporters,
"It's not theirs. Why should they be allowed in? "
Violence Was Anticipated
Earlier today, Israel sealed off the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in an
attempt to keep huge numbers of Muslims from traveling to the shrine.
The border closure kept the numbers down in east Jerusalem, but most
of the fighting over the past week has taken place in the West Bank and
Gaza territories, where Palestinians are still free to move around.
In Gaza City today, angry Palestinians filled the streets for yet
another funeral of another, that of a Palestinian slain in a gun battle
with Israeli forces at the Jewish settlement near Netzarim. Cries of
"Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!") mingled with automatic weapons fire.
Mistrust and Bitterness
Barak appealed on Thursday to 100 world leaders in a sharply worded letter
to persuade Arafat to call an immediate end to the clashes.
Barak, back from a failed attempt in Paris to negotiate a
U.S.-brokered end to the violence, told reporters that Israeli security
forces would uphold the rule of law.
At a memorial service Thursday for paratroopers killed in past wars,
Barak, a former general, said "the time has not yet come to beat our
swords into plough shares." But he pledged to "seek any way to bring true
security and peace to this tortured and suffering land."
Arafat, speaking Thursday in Gaza, was asked whether the door
remained open to future peace negotiations.
"We hope so," he replied. "But first of all, we have to stop the
massacres against our people."
Despite consistently blaming one another for the carnage, the two
sides were beginning to work together to contain it.
Israel has rolled battle tanks away from the West Bank towns of
Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus. Although the army had not used the tanks
to fire on rioters, their deployment on the edge of major population
centers had deeply alarmed the Palestinians.
Barak and Arafat held U.S.-sponsored peace talks Wednesday in Paris,
but at the end of a long day of negotiations, Arafat refused to initial a
ABCNEWS' Rebecca Cooper in Washington, The Associated Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.
Fury in the Arab World
ATHENS, Greece, Oct. 6 - Demonstrators in cites across the Middle
East responded to Palestinian calls for a "day of rage" with
unprecedented scope and ferocity.
Police in the Jordanian capital, Amman, clashed with more than
800 demonstrators who tried to march on the Israeli Embassy. Police
fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the protesters, who
hurled stones in response and set fire to trash cans. At least 10
people were injured..
ABCNEWS' Mohammed Ajlouni reported that clashes continued from
midday until dark and that demonstrators and police were injured,
some seriously. About 50 people were arrested.
In Egypt, violence erupted near Cairo's ancient university and
mosque of Al-Azhar. The senior imam - or priest - of Al-Azhar, Sheik
Muhammad Tantawi, denounced "the aggression by tyrants who seem to
think they are invincible," rhetoric rarely heard from Egypt's most
senior cleric since wars with Israel formally ended more than 20
In Lebanon, still formally at war with Israel despite its
troops' withdrawal from South Lebanon, thousands of Palestinian
refugees marched in furious demonstrations.
In a stadium near Sidon, South Lebanon, the Islamic groups
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Egyptian Jihad Islamiya staged a
military parade. About 60 men and women wearing military fatigues
and carrying Kalashnikov rifles marched past rocket launchers and
strapped on boxes marked "dynamite," which were paraded in a
symbolic declaration of a readiness to carry out suicide bombings.
For the second straight day in Damascus, Syria, marchers trying
to attack the U.S. Embassy clashed with police.
Damascus Radio said there were many injuries on both sides.
Marchers threw stones, and police countered with water cannon and
tear gas. About 20 demonstrators were arrested.
Hundreds of Syrian police ringed the embassy, which has been
closed this week, after an attempt to storm it on Wednesday resulted
in broken windows and severe injuries.
- John Cooley, ABCNEWS