Israel: High alert for Palestinian's declared 'Day of Rage' on Friday : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Israel: High alert for Palestinian's declared 'Day of Rage' on Friday

By Margot Dudkevitch

JERUSALEM (October 6) - In an effort to prevent violence from erupting anew today on the Temple Mount following Hamas's call for a "Day of Rage," Prime Minister Ehud Barak last night clamped a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 4 a.m. this morning through the end of Yom Kippur, barring Palestinians from entering Israel.

A Defense Ministry statement said the measure had been planned to go in effect for Yom Kippur on Sunday, but that it was decided to move it up "to lessen the potential for friction and violence."

The announcement came as security forces were heavily deployed, particularly in Jerusalem, after Hamas warned in a statement yesterday that "Friday will be a day of distinct escalation and clashes. We request the preachers dedicate the Friday sermon to Jerusalem and Al-Aksa and the duty of our people and nation toward them."

Marwan Barghouteh, the leader of Fatah in the West Bank, said the movement has similarly called for demonstrations "to commemorate one week after the Al-Aksa massacre."

He said Fatah would continue demonstrating until Palestinian demands are met.

"I hope the police will not send its personnel inside the Al-Aksa compound, this would cause a disaster," he warned.

West Bank Preventive Security Service chief Jibril Rajoub also urged Israel to refrain from shooting at Palestinian demonstrators.

The number of clashes was significantly lower yesterday than throughout the week. However, in several outbreaks beginning in the afternoon, at least two Palestinians were reported killed and 11 injured. Two Israelis were also hurt, including a border policeman and Rabbi Chaim Brovender, the head of a yeshiva in Efrat, who was beaten up by Palestinian policemen after making a wrong turn into Beit Jalla.

After midnight last night, a fierce gunbattle was reported raging at the Ayosh junction, north of Ramallah.

There was also said to be gunfire from the direction of Beit Jalla at a home in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood. There were no known casualties, but damage was done to several walls, police said. Border policemen returned fire.

Shots had also been fired at Gilo the previous night, shattering the windows of a home.

Jerusalem police chief Yair Yitzhaki said police are prepared for more confrontations today.

"We have some troubling information about possible developments," Yitzhaki said on Channel 2 after a meeting of top Jerusalem police officials in advance of today's "Day of Rage."

Another senior army official said PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was expected to travel to Tunis last night before continuing to Spain.

OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Eitan also warned of possible terror attacks due to the PA's recent release of Hamas prisoners, many of whom were involved in outrages against Israel. Speaking to reporters at Central Command Headquarters, Eitan said the defense establishment is monitoring plans by the PA to release another batch of Hamas terrorists in the coming days.

"Lately the PA has released a large number of terrorists - especially in Gaza - that were linked to terror attacks inside Israel. The IDF, General Security Service, and Israel Police are monitoring the situation and are prepared to thwart attempts to perpetrate terror attacks. The situation is a cause for concern, and we believe that the releases may encourage various organizations to perceive them as a green light to perpetrate attacks," he said.

In accordance with an agreement reached between the sides, the army yesterday pulled back the tanks that had been deployed in the Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus regions when the clashes began.

While the morning saw a noticeable decrease in the unrest, toward noon and in the evening fierce gun battles broke out at the Netzarim junction after Palestinians opened fire at IDF soldiers from a factory near the IDF post.

Soldiers fired at three Palestinians who attempted to take down the Israeli flag over an IDF post, and later at a Palestinian who attempted to throw a gas canister into an IDF position.

Last night, IDF troops at the Netzarim junction spotted Palestinians using ambulances to smuggle weapons and firebombs to demonstrators. Eitan said this wasn't the first time this has happened.

"In my experience - including the September 1996 riots and as former Gaza Division commander - Palestinians did not always use the ambulances for medical assistance," he said.

Eitan noted that even during the recent botched attempt by Duvdevan troops to nab Hamas mastermind Mahmoud Abu Hanoud in Atzira Shamalia, Palestinian Preventive Security Service officials attempted to enter the village in an ambulance. "Troops spotted them and prevented them entering," he said.

Early yesterday evening, an armed Tanzim activist was killed by IDF troops as he threw firebombs at vehicles travelling on the Gush Etzion tunnel road, and his accomplice was injured. In Hebron, toward evening, Palestinians threw firebombs at IDF troops and an explosive device toward Beit Hadassah. Later, shots were fired again at Beit Hadassah, the site of a gun battle the previous night. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

IDF officials noted that the incidents violated the agreements drawn up earlier in the day by the two sides.

With the renewed conflict, roads and highways in Judea and Samaria were closed to Israeli vehicles.

Last night, Brovender was beaten up by Palestinian policemen and his car was confiscated after he accidentally turned into Beit Jalla while heading to Jerusalem, because the Gush Etzion tunnel road was closed. Judea and Samaria police spokesman Rafi Yaffe said he was later handed over to the nearby District Coordinating Office and transferred to Hadassah-University Hospital, where he was listed in moderate condition. His car was not returned.

A border policeman was lightly injured yesterday when his patrol car was stoned near Kalkilya. Palestinians also shot at Israeli security forces near Ariel, at several IDF posts in the Gush Katif region and along the Israeli-Egyptian border near Rafiah, and at a Border Police patrol near Neveh Dekalim.

In Hebron in the late afternoon, Palestinians threw 34 firebombs at IDF troops and an explosive device was thrown at troops near Beit Hadassah.

At the Ayosh junction, in areas surrounding Hebron, and east of Tulkarm, Palestinian demonstrators threw stones and firebombs at Israeli security forces.

Eitan said that due to the situation in certain areas of the West Bank and Gaza, settlers have been advised to return to their communities before nightfall. Near Tekoa, Palestinians shot at IDF troops but no one was injured.

Meanwhile, Israeli Arab leaders called for restraint in anticipation of today's "Day of Rage."

Mohammed Zeidan, head of the monitoring committee of the Arab leadership, said he hoped there would be no further outbreaks of violence.

"We expect hundreds of thousands of people to be going to mosques today, but we are hopeful the day will pass quietly, and certainly we have called for calm and restraint," said Zeidan, who is also chairman of the Forum of Arab Council Heads.

He also urged police to show restraint.

"If the police and security forces stay away from the towns and villages, there is a much better chance things will be quiet, but if they have a presence it will only provoke agitation and possibly confrontation," he said.

Culture Minister Matan Vilna'i, head of the emergency committee established to repair ties between Israeli Arabs and the state, held consultations with Arab leaders. He stressed that the government is making all efforts to tackle long-standing grievances and to bring about equality between the Arab and Jewish sectors.

David Rudge, Etgar Lefkovits, and Lamia Lahoud contributed to this report.

-- Carl Jenkins (, October 05, 2000

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