Israel-Palestinian Gunfights Erupt During 'Days of Rage'
Live ammunition gunfights erupted Friday between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police for the second time in less than a week, seriously wounding at least six, as Palestinians held a "day of rage" to support Arab prisoners jailed in Israel.
Five Palestinians, including one police officer, were injured by bullets, according to medical personnel.
One Israeli soldier was also hit by a live round in the head, witnesses said.
The gunfights broke out when some 200 Israeli soldiers entered a Palestinian-run area in the Gaza Strip to stop Palestinians from throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers posted to protect the Jewish settlement of Nezarim.
The Israeli soldiers withdrew from the area around the settlement and sent in two helicopters that dropped tear gas to disperse the stone-throwers, witnesses said.
At least 42 other people were hurt, at least three others seriously, in sporadic clashes across the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers on the first of two "days of rage".
Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets at hundreds of Palestinians near the West Bank town of Ramallah, in the northern town of Jenin and nearby Tulkarm, and in the southern town of Hebron, witnesses said.
One of the Palestinians, hit in the head with a rubber bullet near Ramallah, was in danger of dying, Dr. Shaher Abdullah from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
At least one journalist was hit in the face with a stone and evacuated by Israeli soldiers.
Protesters also burned tires and disrupted traffic in Tulkarm.
But in Bethlehem nearly 200 Palestinian youths lobbed stones at Israeli soldiers posted there protect a Jewish site, but forces from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's elite presidential guard intervened and negotiated a truce.
Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers also cooperated to turn back roughly 200 marchers in the Palestinian-run city of Jerico.
Five straight days of violence that ended Wednesday saw at least four Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded, including more than 20 Israelis.
The uprising broke out last week with demonstrations throughout the Palestinian territories in support of the nearly 1,600 Palestinians jailed in Israel for opposing, often violently, the peace process.
The protests culminated Monday when Palestinians took to the streets to mark "al Nakba" or what they consider the catastrophe surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948.
A chaotic, afternoon-long gun-battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police erupted, the first of its kind in years.
Prisoner groups declared Friday and Saturday "days of rage" to show continued solidarity with the prisoners, most of whom have been on an open-ended hunger strike for more than a week.
Israeli's army Chief of Staff Sahul Mofaz meanwhile revealed Friday that he was close to ordering combat helicopters to fire on Palestinian police on Monday, the Israeli newsagency ITIM said.
He alleged that Palestinian police and men from Arafat's Fatah faction intentionally shot at Israeli soldiers, including some they accompanied on joint patrols.
Mofaz said the army had video footage that showed clearly which Palestinian policemen shot at Israeli soldiers and that he demanded that they be punished by the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak said early Friday that he was considering postponing his trip to the United States scheduled for Monday because of the violence in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, where Israel has started the process of withdrawing after an occupation of 22 years.
"I already cut short my visit to the United States and I expect to push back the entire visit" to an indefinite date, Barak told reporters after a visit to an Israeli command post near Ramallah -- GAZA CITY (AFP)
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