Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2001

Palestinians’ ‘day of rage’ prompts Israeli response

March 31, 2001

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— Reviving the mass protests of the early stage of their six-month-old uprising, thousands of Palestinians battled Israeli troops with stones and guns in a "day of rage" Friday and drew heavy Israeli fire that killed six demonstrators and injured more than 130.

It was the deadliest day in six weeks.

An Israeli soldier points an M-16 rifle toward stone-throwing
Palestinians during clashes Friday in the West Bank town of Hebron.

An Israeli soldier points an M-16 rifle toward stone-throwing Palestinians during clashes Friday in the West Bank town of Hebron.

In West Bank towns, youths taking cover behind garbage bins hurled rocks at soldiers, who fired live rounds from jeeps and fortified outposts. Palestinian gunmen shot at a Jewish enclave in divided Hebron, and Israeli tanks shelled Arab neighborhoods there. At a disputed Jerusalem shrine, Israeli undercover police wrestled stone-throwers to the ground, and the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest shrine, was briefly closed to worshippers.

Elsewhere, marchers burned Israeli flags and effigies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Islamic militants, responsible for two deadly suicide bombings this week, said they would send more assailants into Israel. "Our message to Sharon is that we will not give up," said Hamas' leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Palestinian anger was fueled this week by Israeli rocket attacks on the West Bank and Gaza and warnings that Israeli troops might re-enter Palestinian-controlled areas. Many Palestinians also felt abandoned by the Arab world after an Arab League summit this week failed to deal extensively with their cause.

Friday's protests capped a tumultuous week of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian uprising would continue, and Sharon said Israel was preparing for a long-term confrontation.

Arafat canceled a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Friday evening in the town of Ramallah, saying 12 Cabinet ministers from Gaza had been prevented by Israel from reaching the West Bank.

A statement released by Arafat's office Friday night said the Palestinian deaths were a result of Israel's "horrible crimes."

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