- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 11, 2001

JERUSALEM — Israeli riot police in black ski masks briefly hoisted their country's flag over the main Palestinian headquarters in heavily Arab East Jerusalem yesterday in a direct challenge to Palestinian claims to the site as the capital of their proposed independent state.
Palestinians condemned the pre-dawn raid as a provocation, staged just hours after an Islamic suicide bomber killed himself and 14 others in a crowded Jerusalem pizzeria, one of the deadliest bombings in 10 months of Mideast fighting.
The takeover of the Orient House was just the latest incident in a deteriorating cycle of strike and counterstrike that left both sides predicting more tension and violence in the days to come.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized Israel for taking over the Orient House complex and for simultaneous raids on Palestinian Authority offices in Abu Dis, a town near Jerusalem.
"These actions represent a political escalation, undermine faith and confidence in a negotiated settlement of this conflict and increase the risk of further deterioration of the political institutions," he said.
France, Russia, Egypt and a number of other powers also criticized the Israeli response yesterday, with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warning that the Mideast was "crossing a dangerous line" with the seizure.
Most of the victims of the suicide attack at a Jerusalem pizza restaurant were buried yesterday. Those included Judith Shoshana Greenbaum, a 31-year-old pregnant teacher from Passaic, N.J., who was studying in Israel, and five members of a family from the Jewish settlement of Talmon in the West Bank.
A surviving daughter of the family, 11-year-old Leah Schijveschuurder, was wheeled to the funeral of her Dutch-born father, Israeli-born mother and three siblings — ages 2, 4 and 14 — on a hospital stretcher, with breathing tubes in her nose. Another sister was too badly injured to attend.
Israel's chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, who had married the couple, broke down during the eulogy after speaking about Mrs. Schijveschuurder's work with children.
"In her name, I call on the Creator of the world, hear our voice," Mr. Lau said, sobbing. "Hear our voice, hear this voice of mourning."
Senior Israeli Cabinet ministers met into the early-morning hours yesterday to decide on a response to the bombing, carried out by a 23-year-old Palestinian member of the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Shortly after the Cabinet meeting, two Israeli F-16 warplanes leveled the Palestinian police headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and Israeli troops raided nine Palestinian Authority offices in Abu Dis.
The main target, however, was the Orient House in Jerusalem, the unofficial headquarters of the Palestinian government-in-waiting.
At about 2 a.m. yesterday, helmeted Israeli riot police, some covering their faces with black ski masks, climbed over the fence of the compound.
Police took the Palestinian flag from the roof and planted the Israeli banner there instead. Officers also removed from the facade a large picture of Faisal Husseini, the top Palestine Liberation Organization official in Jerusalem, who died in June. Seven Orient House guards were arrested, and police took many documents from the building. Adjacent streets were blocked off.
The Israeli flag was later removed, though it was not clear by whom. Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said hoisting the Israeli flag had been "a little provocative" but suggested Israel would keep control of the compound for some time.
Hours after the raid, club-wielding police, including some on horseback, clashed with several dozen demonstrators trying to push through barricades. Eight persons were arrested.
A senior foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Daniel Ayalon, had talks with State Department officials yesterday but gave no indication of any deep disagreement.
"We had a very good and thorough exchange. I think our position is quite understood," he told reporters after meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns.
Mr. Ayalon argued that the Israeli response, which did not kill or injure any Palestinians, was meant to break the cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence of the past 10 months, in which more than 650 people have been killed.
"What we are doing is really trying to contain the situation, and the fact that we do take political steps, and not military ones, is just for that reason, to de-escalate," Mr. Ayalon told reporters outside the State Department.

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