Israeli Army Chief Threatens more Military Action to Curb Intifada

Published March 3rd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Israel will have to intensify military action to curb the escalating an intensified Palestinian campaign against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza, army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying on Saturday.  

"We have to continue fighting terrorism with all our might," Mofaz said in an interview with Israel Radio.  

"I think the incidents of the past few days obligate us to raise the threshold in our amount of action and our pressure on those same terrorists and those who send them," he added.  

Mofaz was speaking after two bombings in Israel this week that raised tensions as the death toll from a five-month-old Palestinian uprising rose to at least 413.  

Palestinians have buried Saturday four martyrs who died Friday in violence that erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the meantime, the future government of national unity continued to take shape with the appointment of a hawkish defense minister and the first Arab to serve in an Israeli cabinet. 

The four deaths included two children and a mentally-ill vagrant killed by Israeli gunfire. 

Three of those who died were shot on Friday, while the fourth victim succumbed to wounds suffered earlier this week, said reports. 

Israeli troops shot dead a nine-year-old boy in the West Bank town of El-Bireh after opening fire on a group of children playing with cap guns beneath his family's apartment, medical officials and witnesses told AFP. 

Ubey Darraj was dead on arrival in hospital after being hit in the chest by a bullet from a heavy caliber machine-gun, hospital officials said.  

Shortly afterwards, hospital officials in Gaza announced that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Mahmoud Hellis, shot on Tuesday, had died. 

He had been hit in the head with a live round while walking home from school near the flashpoint Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

Later Friday, Abdel Karim Issa, 24, died after being shot in the stomach during a clash in the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandia, said a hospital source in nearby Ramallah, where he died. 

Earlier, in an incident the Israeli army later acknowledged may have been a tragic mistake, a Palestinian described by Palestinian officials as a poor, mentally-ill vagrant was shot dead in the Gaza Strip. 

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat lashed out at what he called Israel's "dangerous objectives," saying Friday's deaths exposed Israel's violence against the Palestinians for all the world to see, reported AFP. 

"Their (Israel's) ways have become exposed to the truth in front of international public opinion, as has been exposed their dangerous objectives against human rights," Arafat told reporters in Gaza City after returning from Libya. 

Asked about the new government of national unity that right-wing Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon is trying to put together with the Labor party and the extreme right, Arafat remained cautious, saying, "Let's wait and see." 

Meanwhile, the government of national unity continued to take shape, with the nomination, for the first time in Israel, of an Arab minister, the nomination of Labor hawk Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who favors a tougher stand on the Intifada, to the defense ministry, and the allocation of three ministries to the extreme right wing. 

According to Haaretz late Friday, Ben-Eliezer was Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon’s favorite nominee for the post after outgoing premier Ehud Barak decided to quit politics and former premier Shimon Peres turned down the offer preferring the foreign ministry.  

According to the paper, the appointed minister sounded less conciliatory tones in his first statement after his party voted for his nomination.  

"I am deeply sorry that since September 28 they [the Palestinians] turned the table upside down and instead of sitting at the table they chose fields of blood... We will not accept a situation where every day we have another victim and another victim. I hope to do everything so that they quickly understand that it is better to return to the negotiating table."  

For the post of foreign minister, Labour rubber-stamped the only candidate, former premier and Nobel peace prize winner Shimon Peres, a strong backer of the national unity coalition who nonetheless said he would quit if the government gives up on the Oslo peace accords on Palestinian sovereignty, said reports. 

Meanwhile, the Labor party chose Salah Tarif, a Druze, as the first Arab to serve in an Israeli cabinet.  

The 47-year-old father of four, who entered politics by becoming mayor of his hometown, will be minister without portfolio. 

Born in the northern Galilee in the Druze village of Julis, Tarif was president of the student body at Haifa University, where he majored in psychology – Albawaba.com 

 

 

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