Israeli Troops Put on Alert for Palestinian 'Days of Rage'
Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were on full alert with tanks and combat helicopters Friday for two "days of rage" declared by Palestinian groups, a military source said.
Reinforcements had been sent in, and the troops had orders to reply with live rounds to any shooting from the Palestinian side, the source added.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club and the National and Islamic Committee for Prisoners Solidarity called on Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip to take to the streets in demonstrations on Friday and Saturday.
The region has barely recovered from five straight days of violence, the culmination of sporadic clashes throughout the Palestinian territories since last Wednesday, that left at least four Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded.
The fighting, in which more than 20 Israelis were also hurt, witnessed intense gun battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police.
The protests started out as solidarity demonstrations with the prisoners and culminated in the commemoration Monday of what the Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, of the establishment of Israel in 1948.
The prisoners club said the two "days of rage" should not be limited to Israeli checkpoints, an implication that they would spread to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The "days of rage" organizers have called on the demonstrators and on the Palestinian security services to refrain from using guns in the event of the protests turning violent.
Palestinians hope the protests will push Israel to release more prisoners, some of whom have been on a hunger strike since the beginning of the month.
But Israeli radio said Thursday the government had informed the Palestinians that no more prisoner releases would be carried out in the foreseeable future.
It quoted officials as saying they would not accede to Palestinian demands to change their criteria to allow the release of prisoners with "blood on their hands" -- the term for those who killed or injured Israelis.
A military spokesman said Thursday that Israel had arrested 22 Palestinians over the past few days in connection with their involvement in the earlier rioting.
The prisoners club said that the "days of rage" demonstrations were also a response to a threat made by a senior Israeli official on Monday to send combat helicopters to Yasser Arafat's headquarters in response to the pitched gunfights between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police.
"The Israeli statements to refuse to release Palestinians and the threat to bombard the office of the president is a war against the Palestinian people and are among the reasons for continuing the intifada of the prisoners," the prisoners club said in a statement.
"The marches are responses to these statements," it added -- OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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