West Bank Bursts into More Violence, Barak Demands PA to End Unrest
The funeral for a Palestinian man slain in clashes last week in the West Bank boiled over into violence Sunday - but this time Palestinian demonstrators battled Palestinian police, who picked up stones thrown at them and hurled them back, according to Reuters the same day. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Bark issued a sharp statement demanding the Palestinian Authority to put an end to the burning situation.
Palestinian police imposed a heavy security presence on the West Bank town of Ramallah during the funeral for Issa Abed, 28, one of four people to die during last week's riots, reported Reuters, adding that the unrest throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past seven days also left hundreds of other Palestinians injured.
After Abed's body was buried, about 70 protesters from among the mourners tried to push their way close to a hilltop Israeli army base, but Palestinian police formed human chains to block them.
The demonstrators broke through several lines of defense and threw rocks at the Palestinian police. Although armed with clubs and guns, the police picked up stones and hurled them back at the demonstrators rather than using their other weapons.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that Barak on Sunday issued his sharpest call yet to the Palestinian Authority to bring a halt to the wave of bloody clashes in the occupied territories over the past week.
Barak demanded "immediate answers" from the PA as Israel ordered its citizens and foreigners not to visit the West Bank and Gaza Strip following a firebomb attack which left a two-year-old girl suffering severe burns.
"Israel will not accept the continuation of this situation and strongly demands that the Palestinian Authority take steps to end such incidents and prevent them from recurring," he was quoted as telling a cabinet meeting.
Barak said he viewed with "greatest concern" the attack near the West Bank town of Jericho in which the toddler was hurt when the car in which she was traveling was hit by Molotov cocktails.
Her mother and another passenger were also slightly wounded in the incident, one of a rash of fire bombings in the territories overnight.
The prime minister put off a visit to the United States for a meeting with US Bill Clinton because of the unrest in the territories and an upsurge of fighting between Hizbollah fighters and Israeli troops in occupied south Lebanon.
Five Palestinians were killed and hundreds of people wounded fierce rioting and shoot-outs that erupted as Palestinians staged demonstrations demanding the release of prisoners in Israeli jails and to mark the anniversary of the "catastrophe" of Israel's founding.
The prime minister also reiterated that Israel would not transfer three Arab villages near Jerusalem to full Palestinian control until the violence ends and the Palestinian Authority "proves it is in full control of its people."
Despite the violence, Israeli and Palestinian officials last week launched a new track of negotiations in Stockholm aimed at hammering out a peace accord on the thorniest issues dividing them including Jerusalem, borders of a future Palestinian state and refugees.
US national security advisor Sandy Berger urged the two sides to continue to work for peace despite the violence, which he branded "unacceptable."
"Solutions must be found around the negotiating table, through dialogue, not on the streets through violence," Berger said in address at Tel Aviv University.
Barak said would decide shortly when to reschedule his talks with Clinton aimed at reaching "understandings with the United States" before entering decisive negotiations on the framework agreement with the Palestinians.
Barak called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and French President Jacques Chirac on Saturday to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Lebanon and the territories.
"The prime minister informed them of the measures Israel has taken and warned them of the possible implications these events could have on the peace process," it added.
On the Lebanese front, Barak said Shiite Muslim Hezbollah guerrillas had stepped up their attacks to give the impression it was driving Israel out of south Lebanon, and warned they would continue as long as its soldiers were stationed there.
Fighting has intensified in recent days since Israel began handing over military bases to its allied militia the South Lebanon Army ahead of a July deadline for the completion of its withdrawal from the region.
Israeli army operations chief Major General Giora Eiland said Saturday that Israel may complete its pullout before July because of the increased Hizbollah attacks, but Barak made no mention of the possibility, according to a statement from his office – (Several Sources)
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