Tags: Violence | Escalates | Israel

Violence Escalates in Israel

Thursday, 21 February 2002 12:00 AM

Some 34 Palestinians, including two members of Hamas, were shot late Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 Israelis have died in the latest round of fighting.

Also Thursday, Palestinian Authority security forces arrested three men suspected of being involved with the assassination of Israeli Cabinet Minister Rehevaam Zeevi on Oct. 17. Israel had been demanding the detentions of all those involved in the assassination and has placed Arafat under virtual house arrest, with Israeli tanks parked outside his office, since Dec. 3.

The PA issued a statement that Arafat ordered the arrest of Abu Gholmi, Bassell Al Asmar and Hamdi Qora'an and that the men, all members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which had admitted to Zeevi's killing, were picked up in the West Bank. Security sources said Abu Gholmi is the leader of the PFLP's West Bank military wing while the other two men carried out the assassination.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had demanded that the Palestinian Authority arrest all the people involved in the Zeevi assassination, meaning also the PFLP leaders who planned it, and officials involved in the attempt to smuggle Iranian arms.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer suggested that if the arrests had indeed been made, Israel should lift the siege on Arafat.

PFLP killed Zeevi after Israel, in one of its targeted killings of people the Israelis hold responsible for terrorism, killed PFLP Secretary-General Abu Ali Mustafa in August.

That retaliatory act is emblematic of the intifada (uprising) in Israel and the Palestinian territories, which has been highlighted in the series of deadly clashes this week.

Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan, head of Israel's Central Command, on Wednesday told reporters at his headquarters at Camp Nehemia, north of Jerusalem, that Israel Defense Forces "will increase operations against perpetrators of terror and those who fight against us as long as the Palestinian Authority fails to carry out its commitments.

"We are at war, in a struggle against a terror and guerrilla attack, and we shall exercise our basic right for self-defense," he said.

Israel's predawn Thursday air attack on Arafat's headquarters reportedly was ordered because of Tuesday's ambush of six Israeli soldiers and a bombing of a tank that killed three Israelis.

That attack by Palestinians came about because of the Israeli response to the suicide bombings. Palestinian militant groups had promised to continue the suicide bombings in protest of Israel's occupation of what are to be autonomous Palestinian areas.

Violence continued throughout Thursday. A Palestinian and an Israeli-Arab drove up to a military roadblock at Bakaa al-Sharkiya, between Israel and the West Bank. The Palestinian presented a forged identity card then pulled out a handgun, shot and injured two soldiers. He was killed. The man with him fled and was killed as well, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. Palestinians fired a mortar bomb at an Israeli site in the Gaza Strip, shot at the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Giloh, at Israeli vehicles in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and tried to bomb a tank.

Israeli Apache helicopters attacked Palestinian Authority security installations in Gaza City and the Gaza Strip's southern town of Rafah, Palestinian eyewitnesses and security sources reported.

The sources said the helicopters fired three missiles targeting the PA security compound of "Ansar 2" that includes several security offices and apparatuses.

Witnesses said they saw flames of fire and black smoke coming out of the building that was targeted, adding that firefighters and ambulances arrived at the place. Four Palestinians were injured.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said Apache helicopters fired another three missiles at a PA security complex in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, causing severe damage to the buildings. Two Palestinians were injured.

An Israeli military spokesman said those attacks targeted structures belonging to the military intelligence and Force-17 in Rafah and the naval police in Gaza.

Eight Palestinians were killed in several incidents Thursday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society's spokesman Mohammad Ayyad.

The spokesman said six Palestinians were killed in a shelling of Rafah, one was killed while trying to skirt an Israeli roadblock near Kalandia south of Ramallah, and another man was shot in the chest while driving his motorcycle with his daughter in Hebron. Ayyad said the girl was not injured.

An Israeli military source said Palestinians fired at Israeli soldiers in Hebron and the Israelis returned fire. The army was investigating the incident at Kalandia, he added.

The cycle of violence could well continue because as Thursday's Israeli attacks started, loudspeakers on mosques called on Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers. Gunfire could be heard throughout Ramallah.

After a security meeting Wednesday, Israeli Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit said: "There will be more aggressive activity because the Palestinians are escalating. We shall react more forcefully against any terror target."

There also will be more, and more intensive, commando counter-terror and counter-guerrilla operations in areas the Palestinians do not expect, Raanan Gissin, media adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told UPI on Wednesday.

"Those involved in terror acts should start worrying. Those who are not have nothing to worry about," Gissin said.

Palestinian Brig. Gen. Abdul Razeq al Majayda said the Israeli army's actions had crossed the line. "The Israeli army's actions prove 100 percent that this Israeli government is not interested at all in peace with Palestinians," he said.

However, Arafat in Ramallah and Sharon in Jerusalem on Thursday reiterated their desire for a cease-fire and an eventual arrangement. Arafat declared, "We repeat our commitment ... to reinforce the cease-fire, and go ahead with the peace process that is based on the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian people's commitments to make the peace of the brave."

Sharon, in his televised address to the nation, said he "will do everything in my power to bring an end to violence and terrorism and achieve a cease-fire."

"My aim is to achieve a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians."

The prime minister said he seeks, first, "an armistice agreement that creates a situation on non-warfare" and demanded a complete demilitarization of the Palestinian area.

The second stage would see a permanent settlement and set the borders, he said.

Arafat has called for U.S. intervention to stop the fighting. Additionally, at the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinian observer mission is calling for help to stop Israeli attacks. Private consultations were expected Thursday.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Wednesday did not directly condemn Israeli retaliations but said it was counterproductive. "Actions in densely populated areas, and actions directly against Palestinian Authority administrative and security facilities that are in these areas, work against the overall objective of reducing the violence and achieving security," said Boucher.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Some 34 Palestinians, including two members of Hamas, were shot late Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 Israelis have died in the latest round of fighting. Also Thursday, Palestinian Authority security forces arrested three men suspected of being involved with the...
Thursday, 21 February 2002 12:00 AM
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