- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

JERUSALEM The fierce firefight convulsing the West Bank and Gaza Strip spread into Israel proper yesterday, with battles in Israeli Arab villages claiming six lives and awakening the worst fears of the nation's Jewish majority.
Rock throwing, gunfights and rocket attacks also continued throughout the West Bank and Gaza as the death toll in five days of fighting rose to at least 48, almost all of them Palestinians or Arab Israelis.
Palestinian medical officials, who said 300 people were injured yesterday, reported at least seven children under the age of 17 had been killed by Israeli forces.
But Israel's deputy chief of staff accused the Palestinians of deliberately putting children in harm's way.
Fighting swept from one end of the territories to the other, leaving behind a scene of broken windows, rubble-strewn streets and spent shell casings.
Israeli forces brought to bear the most intense firepower of the uprising, using helicopter gunships against rioters in the West Bank for a second day and bringing tanks into play around the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Nablus, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting.
Helicopter gunships also were deployed around Nablus, where about a dozen border police have been isolated for several days in a small compound containing a tomb believed by some to be that of the biblical figure Joseph.
A single Israeli anti-tank missile slammed into a building near the town of Netzarim, injuring 35 Palestinians, hospital officials told the Associated Press. More than 1,000 people have been wounded since Thursday.
Near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, rioters set fire to eight Israeli-owned factories last night, sending clouds of noxious fumes over the region.
Yesterday's death toll included at least six Arab Israeli citizens killed as the disturbances spread to their villages in Israel proper and a general strike halted commerce in the coastal city of Haifa, long considered a model of peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
Authorities have long feared an uprising in which the Israeli Arabs joined the Palestinians from the territories.
Officials and news services last night put the total death toll since Thursday at 37 Palestinians, eight Israeli Arabs, two Israeli security forces and one Jewish civilian.
The Jewish civilian, a 24-year-old man, reportedly was fatally shot in a revenge attack when he stopped his car to change a tire on the road to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
An Israel soldier died yesterday after being shot while escorting a gasoline delivery truck in the West Bank, the Israeli army said.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, watching his hopes for a peace agreement with the Palestinians drain into the desert sand with the blood of the injured, traveled yesterday to the West Bank for an urgent appeal for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to quell the rioting.
"It is still too early to eulogize the peace process," he told reporters at army headquarters near Ramallah.
In a separate appeal to Israeli Arabs and their leaders, Mr. Barak urged them not to destroy "the very delicate fabric of coexistence in the state of Israel."
"No country can tolerate these kinds of violent scenes and disorder on the part of its citizens, as hurt as they may be," he said.
Palestinian leaders responded with angry accusations that Israel was using disproportionate and indiscriminate force against the rioters.
"It's a massacre being committed against the Palestinian people. It was escalated by using missiles, tanks… . It's a complete massacre out there," Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters news agency.
Anger over the Palestinian deaths spread beyond Israel and the territories throughout the Arab world.
The AP reported from Amman, Jordan, that crowds across the Middle East burned Israeli flags and chanted "Death to the Jews."
Egypt and Syria urged Arabs to hold a summit as soon as possible to discuss the bloodshed. In Amman, Mr. Arafat and Jordan's King Abdullah were quoted as welcoming the call for a summit after a two-hour meeting.
Israel also came under harsh criticism from other sources.
French President Jacques Chirac blamed the violence on "irresponsible provocation" from Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, whose visit Thursday to a hotly contested Jerusalem shrine set off the disturbances.
And Amnesty International accused Israeli forces of using "indiscriminate" and excessive force against Palestinian protesters. "We have been saying for years that Israel is killing civilians unlawfully by firing at them during demonstrations and riots," it said.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said President Clinton, in phone calls to Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat over the weekend, had asked for an investigation into how the violence began.
White House spokesman Jake Siewert said Mr. Clinton was urging the Palestinians and Israelis to "do everything they can, everything that is within their power to stop the violence and restore calm."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also said he had been in touch with the leaders of both sides "and I appeal to them to do whatever they can … to bring an end to the violence."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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