Purported Truce Proves Fleeting as Mideast Fights On; Hostilities: Five more die on sixth day of violence. Boy shot in Gaza probably was killed by Israeli soldiers.
TRACY WILKINSON. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Oct 4, 2000. pg. 8
Full Text (1065 words) Copyright (c) 2000 Los Angeles Times)
A fleeting cease-fire was crushed Tuesday by fresh gun battles as Israel and the Palestinians prepared to join an emergency U.S. bid to prevent a wider conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat were to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Paris today, hoping to put a stop to fighting that has claimed more than 50 lives in six days. More than 1,000 people have been injured. Almost all of the casualties have been Palestinians.
The violence, which has convulsed the West Bank, Gaza Strip and much of Israel proper, has shaken Arabs and Jews to the core. It has done possibly irreparable damage to a troubled peace process and to tenuous relations between two peoples who share this land.
Five people were killed Tuesday as Israeli helicopter gunships blasted Palestinian positions near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in Gaza and near a tiny Jewish enclave in the West Bank city of Nablus. But the daily death toll was the lowest since a visit Thursday by a right-wing Jewish leader to a contested holy site touched off the wave of unrest.
Also Tuesday, a senior Israeli army officer said an internal investigation has shown that a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, whose death Saturday was captured in a series of horrifying television images, was probably killed by Israeli forces.
Maj. Gen. Moshe Yaalon told a parliamentary committee that Israeli soldiers, their post in Gaza under attack from many sides, returned fire and apparently killed the boy, Mohammed Durra, as he huddled with his father against a wall in a desperate attempt to escape harm. Pictures of the shooting, published and broadcast the world over, have become a defining image of this conflict.
The boy’s death was “heartbreaking,” Yaalon said. But he added that Mohammed was a stone-thrower who should not have been in such a hot spot.
In the boy’s home in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza, his mother, Amal, said Mohammed and his father stumbled into the killing zone by accident. She had kept her son out of school that morning to prevent him from being caught up in the rioting. The father, Jamal, was wounded in the cross-fire.
Told that even President Clinton had said he was moved by the killing of Mohammed, Amal said the sympathy means little while the shooting continues.
“If he is moved, why doesn’t he come and intervene in the situation now and stop this Israeli killing?” she said, clutching a small photograph of her son, while a young daughter played at her feet with an orange kitten and the thumping noise of an Israeli helicopter sounded outside. The tiny home was draped with banners proclaiming Mohammed the “martyr of Al Aqsa,” one of two mosques at the contested holy site in Jerusalem. A very public visit to the mosque last week by right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon helped spark the violence.
Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Tuesday dawned with reports of a cease-fire that the two sides had agreed to in an overnight meeting of their top security commanders. And for several hours, it seemed quiet. But by midafternoon, Israeli forces were again doing battle with armed demonstrators near the Netzarim settlement and near Joseph’s Tomb, a tiny Jewish holding in Nablus.
One sure sign that the cease-fire was in trouble was the fact that neither side would call it a cease-fire.
“What kind of cease-fire?” Col. Mohammed Dahlan, the senior security official in Gaza, said in a telephone interview from his headquarters. “A cease-fire takes place between two armies, and this is not a matter of two armies. It is one army, the Israelis, who battle with rockets, and our people in the streets.”
He repeated the Palestinian position that it is Israel that must halt military actions first: “When they take back their soldiers, it will finish the problem.”
Israeli officials gave a mirror-image response.
“When I spoke about [cease-fire] understandings, I meant that they will not shoot, and we will not respond,” Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said. “But at the moment, they are shooting, and we have to respond.”
The key Palestinian in bringing about a real truce is Marwan Barghouti, a leader of Arafat’s Fatah political movement. Barghouti is in charge of the gunmen who constitute Fatah’s armed wing and who have been at the forefront of the fiercest Palestinian resistance.
Emerging from a funeral in Ramallah of a Palestinian youth killed the day before, Barghouti said he had not seen any sign from Israel that would indicate that a truce was in place.
“We are going to continue our struggle,” said Barghouti, who is fast becoming Israel’s public enemy No. 1. After the funeral, he led several hundred men to an intersection that has served as the battleground in the Ramallah area, and within minutes the day’s relative tranquillity was shattered with burning tires, stone- throwing and shooting between Israeli forces and the Palestinians.
In Nablus, the fighting involved Palestinian gunmen from the nearby Balata refugee camp, who repeatedly attempted to storm Joseph’s Tomb and a hill overlooking it where an Israeli army base is ensconced.
Of all the troubles of the past week, the most frightening and disheartening for Israelis was the revolt by Arab citizens of Israel who blocked roads and torched government buildings throughout the northern Galilee region all the way to the southern Negev desert and, Tuesday, into the Golan Heights.
It sent shock waves through the ranks of the Israeli leadership. Barak, whose government will collapse without the support of the Arab members of parliament, took pains Tuesday to meet with Arab community representatives. He promised a new committee to look into their decades of grievances over discrimination and substandard living conditions.
Caption: PHOTO: (2 photos), Palestinians, above, duck during fighting outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. Below, Jamal Durra, the father of a 12-year-old boy caught in a gun battle over the weekend, recovers from his wounds. The Israeli army called the Palestinians boy’s death “heartbreaking.”.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press; PHOTO: (2 photos), Palestinians, above, duck during fighting outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. Below, Jamal Durra, the father of a 12-year-old boy caught in a gun battle over the weekend, recovers from his wounds. The Israeli army called the Palestinians boy’s death “heartbreaking.”.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Agence France-Presse; GRAPHIC-MAP: (no caption), Los Angeles Times
Credit: TIMES STAFF WRITER