Israel Congratulates Arafat on Anti-US Protest Crackdown, Sends Tanks, Bulldozers into Gaza
The Israeli government appeared on Tuesday to be satisfied with a Palestinian Authority (PA) clampdown on anti-American protests in the Gaza Strip that left two Palestinians dead, and later sent tanks and bulldozers into the area to flatten farmers' fields.
An Israeli government spokesman praised the PA for the Monday crackdown on demonstrators, AFP reported.
"For the first time we congratulate the Palestinian Authority for taking the measures which it promised to implement against terrorists," said Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
But later on Tuesday, Israeli armored bulldozers and tanks moved several hundred meters into Palestinian self-rule land in the southern Gaza Strip Tuesday and flattened farmers' fields, AFP quoted Palestinian security officials as saying.
The agency added that three bulldozers accompanied by several tanks made the incursion near the Gush Katif settlement bloc, firing warning shots to Palestinian farmers to keep out of sight, Palestinian officials said.
There were no reports of injuries in the operation, they said.
PROBE OF PROTESTOR DEATHS
The Palestinian leadership launched on Tuesday an inquiry into the two deaths that resulted after anti-US protests escalated into gun battles Monday.
Following the shootout, Amnesty International condemned what it described as reckless use of force by Palestinian police.
There were other Palestinian deaths on Monday as Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians in three separate incidents in the Gaza Strip, AFP reported, citing Palestinian hospital sources and the Israeli army.
Another two Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops near the Israeli settlement of Netzarim and the village Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip.
Citing a statement the Palestinian Authority issued late Monday, AFP said that the PA had opened an inquiry into the bloodiest violence Palestinians faced since the uprising against Israel erupted a year ago.
Two Palestinians were killed and at least 200 injured, including 100 police, as student protests against the US-led strikes on Afghanistan escalated into gun battles with Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip.
According to AFP, the rioting started as police tried to prevent what they termed an "illegal" demonstration by students of the Islamic University, who were furious at the strikes on Afghanistan.
The police claimed that masked gunmen opened fire from student crowds inside the university, killing 13-year-old Abdullah Al Franji and Yusef Bakr, 21, but a Palestinian rights group said it had found no civilians able to confirm the official version of events.
During the violence student-led rioters sacked two Palestinian police stations and attacked three more, Palestinian security sources and witnesses cited by AFP said.
Police ordered the city's universities closed until further notice after the clashes
The deaths bring the toll of the year-old intifada, or uprising against 34 years of Israeli military occupation, to 871, including 672 Palestinians and 176 Israelis.
Amnesty International condemned the actions of the police, calling them responsible for the protesters' deaths.
"This appears to have been a reckless and unlawful use of lethal force against demonstrators when lives were not in danger," the London-based human rights organization said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said it "strongly condemns the use of excessive lethal force by Palestinian police."
It added that the "rapid resort to excessive force... in particular the use of live fire against demonstrators... is not consistent with national and international standards of law enforcement."
The Palestinian leadership's statement said it regretted "the sad events which have seriously tarnished the image of our people and the just fight against Israeli occupation.
"The leadership has decided to set up an official commission of inquiry to establish who was responsible" for the fatal shootings, the official statement said.
Earlier, in a bid to limit the damage to its reputation and public image, the PA sealed off the Gaza Strip to foreign journalists.
Al Jazeera satellite TV reported that the Gaza Strip had been sealed off to all foreigners.
According to AFP, the Palestinian leadership also tried to ban all filming of Palestinians to avoid being seen as supporting Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, who said Sunday he was championing their cause against Israel.
The protests against the US-led attacks on Afghanistan spread later Monday to the West Bank, where around 2,000 Palestinians rallied in Jenin waving portraits of bin Laden, witnesses said.
Unlike in Gaza, Palestinian police did not try to prevent the rally.
A coalition of 13 Palestinian movements, including the Islamic militant Hamas and Arafat's Fatah group, appealed for national unity following the Gaza clashes - Albawaba.com
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