Uneasy Calm in Palestinian Territories after Deadly Clashes with Israeli Army

Published October 1st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

An uneasy calm hung over Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories on Sunday after three days of fierce clashes that left more than 20 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured. 

"For the moment, there are no incidents to report," Israeli army spokesman Yarden Vatikay told AFP, although the military had reported sporadic incidents in the West Bank overnight. 

Top Israeli army officer General Yitzhak Eitan met Palestinian security officials overnight in the West Bank town of Ramallah in a bid to restore calm after the violence that threatens to plunge the faltering peace process into turmoil. 

Eitan, the head of the Israeli army's central command, was acting at the request of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, an army official said. 

Barak had called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat late Saturday to ask for his personal intervention to stop the clashes, the worst in the area in four years. 

The violence was sparked by a controversial visit by right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon on Thursday to a hotly disputed site in Jerusalem's Old City that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. 

Control over the site, known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, is the key sticking point in efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. 

The army spokesman said Israelis were banned from visiting the Palestinian territories. 

A total of 23 Palestinians have died and hundreds wounded in the clashes, while in separate incidents an Israeli soldier was shot dead in the West Bank on Friday and another was killed in a bomb attack near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. 

The funerals of some of the victims are expected to take place Sunday. 

Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz had announced a ceasefire on Saturday afternoon, although Mohammed Dahlan, head of Palestinian security in Gaza, said later that no agreement had been reached. 

"Our assessment is that there will be riots" Sunday, an army spokesman said Saturday, adding that the clashes would likely be "very fierce." 

Several incidents were reported overnight in parts of the West Bank. 

The violence was the worst since 1996 when 80 Palestinians died in riots sparked by a decision by then right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open a new entrance to an archeological tunnel near the compound. 

Barak had called Arafat to ask him to intervene personally to stop the violence. 

"The prime minister stated that Israel will not allow the violence to be a tool in the negotiations and that Israel will do everything to protect its citizens," said a Barak spokesman David Baker. 

But Arafat reportedly accused the Israelis of having orders "to aim for the heads of Palestinian citizens and worshippers." -- JERUSALEM (AFP) 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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