Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2000

Tense calm holds over Mideast

October 19, 2000


— There were some hopeful signs Wednesday that clashes in Israel and the Palestinian territories were easing, a day after the two sides reached an agreement. But sporadic violence continued, casting uncertainty over the pact.

It is still too early to know whether the agreement, which was reached with the leaders of the United States, Egypt, Lebanon and the European Union, at the Sharm el-Sheik summit in Egypt, will have a lasting impact or will be seen as a failed attempt to bring order to the chaos of the last three weeks that has left more than 100 dead.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army arrested several Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah and charged them with participating in the lynching of two Israeli soldiers killed there last week.

Eight men were detained and taken to Israel for questioning. The attack was filmed by an Italian television cameraman, and the footage may be used as evidence against the Palestinians who killed the soldiers and then in one case used iron bars and other blunt instruments to mutilate the soldier's body.

Israel radio said one of the detained Palestinians was the man who emerged from the killings with blood-coated hands triumphantly raised in the air. His photograph was published around the world.

Israeli officials said the true test will come in the next two days. They expect a sharp falloff in the confrontations but are making contingency plans in case there is a resurgence of the attacks by Palestinians demanding an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

If attacks on Israeli troops end by then, Israeli officials expect tanks and troops to be withdrawn from forward positions in the Palestinian territories, as agreed to in the summit, and to lift the closure on the territories that is causing hardship for Palestinian workers unable to get to their jobs.

But Palestinian leaders said Israel needed to remove soldiers from the fringes of restive Palestinian cities to end the fighting.

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