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Marked Escalation in Palestinian Intifada

Monday, August 27, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

The renewed Palestinian intifada appears headed towards a new spiral of violence, as armed Palestinian factions are vowing to revenge Israeli hits on militia commanders and Fatah attempts to mark the anniversary of its founding. Meanwhile, Israelis are trying to act with restraint following the murder of a Jewish hard-liner on Sunday morning and yet another terrorist bombing inside Israel yesterday.

Our review begins on FRIDAY, when a Palestinian policeman was killed in an exchange of fire with the IDF near the Erez crossing. Palestinians maintained that the man was wounded by an IDF tank shell. The IDF Spokesman confirmed only that there had been heavy exchanges of gunfire in the area.

On Friday morning, Israeli peace activist Itzik Magrafta was handed over to the Hebron district coordinating office after he was abducted by Hamas members late Thursday night as he entered the city to hand out food to local Palestinian families. Magrafta, who was accompanied by a Tanzim activist, was approached by a group of armed Hamas men who abducted him and detained him for questioning, fearing he was an Israeli security agent. The Hamas terrorists reportedly threatened the Tanzim activist, aiming their weapons at him and warning him not to intervene. Magrafta was released early Friday morning after senior government officials and MK Ahmed Tibi intervened and obtained his release.

On SATURDAY, IDF soldiers shot and killed a Lebanese man at the Fatma Gate border crossing as he tried to scale the fence and enter Israel from Lebanon. The army said that the man had placed a ladder on the fence and tried to cross it while others stoned the IDF outpost there and a passing patrol. The Lebanese man was a member of an Islamic scout group affiliated with Amal, a Syrian-backed guerilla group.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud instructed the Foreign Ministry to file a complaint against Israel with the United Nations to protest the death and the wounding of five Lebanese by Israeli gunfire last week. The IDF said in a statement that full deployment of the United Nations peacekeepers and Lebanese army forces would help prevent such incidents.

Early SUNDAY morning, Binyamin Zeev Kahane, the son of the late Kach leader Rabbi Meir Kahane, was murdered, together with his wife Talia, after terrorists shot at their vehicle traveling south of Ofra. Kahane, 34, was fatally shot and lost control of the car, which overturned and landed in a ravine at the side of the road. His wife, 31-year-old Talia, was critically injured and died in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Five of the couple's six children, aged 13 to two months, were also hospitalized suffering from moderate to serious injuries. A group called the Aksa Martyrs claimed responsibility for the attack. Kahane's father, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in New York a decade ago, after founding an extremist movement that advocated expelling Arabs from Israeli-ruled areas.

At an angry mass funeral procession for the Kahanes through downtown Jerusalem Sunday evening, Jewish demonstrators smashed windows in five Jewish stores and assaulted Arab workers inside. Former members of the outlawed terrorist Kach and Kahane Hai movements and acquaintances of Kahane later vowed to avenge the couple's deaths.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Opposition leader Ariel Sharon both called on settlers to maintain restraint and to allow the army to hunt down the terrorists who shot and killed the Kahanes. The nation's security services began monitoring Jewish extremists for possible vigilante attacks and increased patrols in potential flash points, following the calls for vengeance that were heard at the Kahane funeral. The General Security Service has reportedly beefed up its protection of Barak and other officials in light of growing rightist discontent, ISRAEL TV CHANNEL ONE reported.

Meanwhile, the Fatah movement vowed to avenge the death of one of its key leaders in the Tulkarm region, Dr. Thabet Thabet, gunned down Sunday morning outside his home. The movement warned it would escalate its attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers in response to the "assassination," the latest shooting in a string of attacks on leading Fatah field operatives. Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti declared, "Barak has opened the gates of hell on himself and Israel."

A Palestinian security officer claimed that Thabet was a moderate pro-peace supporter, who had no connection to shooting attacks on Israelis. "They chose Thabet as an easy target to revenge the killing of Kahane, to prevent the settlers from taking the law into their own hands," he said. The two incidents occurred too close in time, however, to conform to his theory.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement marked its 36th anniversary MONDAY, termed Fatah Day, with large demonstrations in most Judean and Samarian villages and towns. The movement called for attacks on soldiers and settlers to be stepped up for two weeks starting yesterday, in commemoration of the anniversary of its founding in 1964.

Hussein Sheikh, a leader of the Fatah Tanzim in the "West Bank," said Fatah will show that it is still the leader of the Palestinian resistance and the intifada. "[Fatah Day] is very important this year, because we are in the middle of the intifada, and Fatah is the leader of the popular resistance," he said. Starting days before the anniversary, Palestinian television played Fatah songs and praised the armed militia and its struggle for independence.

Meanwhile, a car-bomb attack in Netanya Monday night wounded over 50 people, one seriously. The attack occurred around 7 p.m. in the heart of Netanya when crowds of people were on the streets and in shops, restaurants, and cafes. Witnesses said they heard a series of three explosions, which caused widespread damage to shop fronts and flung objects, including garbage bins, through the air. Police said that more than 20 kilograms of explosives had been used in the attack.

It was not clear whether the badly hurt person was the terrorist who detonated the bomb or was an innocent passerby, as the bomb was detonated by remote control. Police launched a widespread search for a car that was seen leaving the scene at high speed.

A radical Palestinian group, calling themselves the "group of the martyr, Saad Sayel" claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement released Tuesday, saying the attack was meant to avenge the killing of Palestinian leaders and of Thabet Sunday. The statement was released by the al-Awda Brigade belonging to a group calling itself the Vanguards of the Popular Army.

In response to the attack, Israel closed the Palestinian Authority's Gaza International Airport in the Gaza Strip, and the border crossings to Jordan and Egypt. The IDF further tightened the existing closure of Judea and Samaria by blockading all cities and towns - except for humanitarian emergencies - and denying Palestinian VIPs freedom of movement for the first time. Other undefined measures have been implemented as well.

Also Monday, terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle north of Jerusalem, wounding David Davidi, 23, in the back. His wounds were considered light to moderate.

Palestinians claimed two Palestinian policemen were killed in a gun battle with the IDF near Tulkarm Monday. Judea and Samaria Police spokesman Rafi Yafe said police had launched an investigation but had not received any information supporting the claims.

A Palestinian boy died of wounds he sustained Sunday when he was caught in Palestinian-Israeli crossfire in Hebron, and a Palestinian man died after being shot by settlers in the village of Hizme, THE JERUSALEM POST reported.

Meanwhile, the IDF began an investigation the circumstances surrounding the injury of a Palestinian man who was apparently shot by an IDF soldier manning a roadblock in Hebron. An AP photographer filmed the man talking with soldiers before he was shot; minutes later the film shows him laying on the ground with a wounded leg. His condition was listed as moderate.

On TUESDAY, Palestinians opened heavy fire on an Israeli outpost at the settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip; hand grenades were thrown at the soldiers and two powerful explosive devices were detonated on the road leading to the area. Only moments before the explosions, a school bus filled with Jewish children had passed by. A 52-year-old Palestinian "farmer" was killed near the settlement, Palestinian police reported. The circumstances of his death have not been confirmed.

A roadside bomb exploded at Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip as IDF soldiers were examining the road between the settlement and the area of its greenhouses. An IDF tracker was slightly wounded. A Lebanese terrorist group calling itself "The Omar El Muktar Forces," took responsibility for attack.

A civilian building worker was shot and wounded in the stomach by a single shot at a border outpost on the Lebanese border. The IDF said the bullet was apparently fired by a Lebanese sniper. The man's wounds were not considered serious.

Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a public bus traveling between the settlements of Otniel and Beit Haggai Tuesday. There were no injuries in the shooting, but several bullets damaged the bus in the attack.

A group of settlers Tuesday morning blocked the Tapuach junction east of Ariel, in protest against the recent violence in the area. The settlers threw stones at passing Palestinian vehicles and one settler was arrested.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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