The Principle Hot Spots in Israeli-Palestinian Clashes

Published October 5th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

A holy site inside an autonomous Palestinian enclave and two highway intersections, one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip, are the principal points of friction in the past week's violence, which has killed more than 70. 

An informal agreement reached late Wednesday in Paris between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat calls for Israeli forces to pull back to the positions they held before the violence, according to Israeli sources. 

-- Joseph's Tomb, near Nablus in the northern West Bank. The small white dome, restored in the 19th century, is believed by many Jews to be the burial spot of the biblical patriarch Joseph. 

Many historians dispute the claim and say the tomb is actually home to the remains of an Arab sheikh and that earlier it was a Samaritan holy place. 

Regardless of the historical reality, the site is of great importance to many Jews. A synagogue and a Talmudic institute were established there in the 1980s by religious Israel ultra-nationalists. Israel continues to control the site, even though it officially withdrew from Nablus in 1995.  

Joseph's Tomb is regularly attacked by Palestinians and has become a sort of fortified camp. In 1996, six Israeli border guards and one Palestinian were killed there after riots broke out following Israel's digging of a tunnel under the holy mosque compound in Jerusalem. 

Another Israeli guard was killed in the clashes over the past week. Israel's army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday that Israel could evacuate the site in case of a military emergency. 

-- The Judea-Samaria Command crossroads, known as Tzomet Ayosh in Hebrew, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Jerusalem. On one side are the city limits of Ramallah, administered by the Palestinian Authority, and on the other Israeli forces provide security for the Jewish settlement of Beit El, alongside a major military base and command center. 

Overlooking the area is the prestigious City Hotel, where US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once stayed on a visit. Israeli soldiers, including elite snipers, regularly observe the area from the hotel. 

The highway bypass connecting Ramallah to Jerusalem, which is used by Jewish settlers, has turned into a battleground for Israelis and Palestinians. 

-- The Netzarim Jewish settlement, one and a half kilometers (about one mile) south of Gaza City. The settlement is home to only about 60 families, generally religious Jews, and has been besieged by Palestinians and completely cut off for the past six days. It is guarded by an Israeli military strongpoint. 

"Currently, we get provisions from the army and we can enter Israel only by helicopter," settlement resident David Fresh told AFP. 

Usually, settlers are able to enter Israel by the Karni passage about two kilometers (a mile and a quarter) away, traveling in a convoy of armored vehicles escorted by military jeeps -- JERUSALEM(AFP)  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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