- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

TEL AVIV Israeli troops shot dead five Palestinians in a surge of violence yesterday that came amid calls by Yasser Arafat for renewed resistance to "defend holy Jerusalem."

Separately, a top Israeli general accused Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader, of buying time in hopes of a major blunder by Israel's army to reap political gains.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, struck a defiant note a day after Israel blasted targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to the killing of two Israelis.

"We have no doubt the Palestinian Authority fully understands the long arm of the Israeli army can be even more painful and that Israel will not ignore or tolerate in any way attacks on its soldiers and citizens," Mr. Barak said.

Yesterday's clashes marked some of the worst in an uprising that has lasted more than a month since a missed deadline for a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Associated Press quoted Israeli army officials as saying Palestinians fired machine guns and anti-tank missiles at Israeli forces for the first time yesterday.

Still, Mr. Barak gave fellow Cabinet minister and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres the green light to try to meet Mr. Arafat and stem the violence, which has claimed the lives of 154 persons, most of them Palestinian. Mr. Peres said he expected the meeting to take place as early as today.

In Gaza, officials said four Palestinians were shot dead in clashes at the Karni commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel. Another Palestinian died after being shot in skirmishes at al-Jalazon refugee camp in the West Bank.

At least 45 Palestinians were injured in three separate clashes in Gaza and two in the West Bank, doctors said.

The wounded in Gaza included CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman, 41, who was hit with a bullet in the waist. Officials said Mr. Wedeman had been only lightly wounded and his condition was stable. It was not immediately clear who fired the shot that hit him.

Israel accuses Mr. Arafat of orchestrating the violence in the West Bank and Gaza, in order to wring political concessions from Israel at the bargaining table and bring about international pressure on Israel.

Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, who heads the Israeli army's operations branch, said in an interview that Mr. Arafat would be in a better position to do so if Israel mistakenly bombed an apartment building or a school and killed civilians.

"He is hoping for an Israeli mistake that could cause France, Russia and other countries to change their approach from passive to active involvement," Gen. Eiland said.

"We hope that if we are patient enough and restrict ourselves and cause a relatively low number of casualties, then maybe in a few weeks or months Mr. Arafat will realize the only way to move forward is through negotiations," he said.

Israel's missile strikes late on Monday caused only limited damage and no deaths, but heralded part of a new Israeli tactic of taking the initiative against Palestinian gunmen to try to stop a growing guerrilla war.

"All these things cannot shake one eyelash from the eyelashes of a Palestinian child holding a Palestinian stone to defend holy Jerusalem … the capital of the Palestinian state," Mr. Arafat said in remarks broadcast on Voice of Palestine Radio.

"And whoever dislikes it, let him come and drink the sea of Gaza," he said before touring the rocketed headquarters of his Force 17 security service in Gaza.

Palestinians want Arab east Jerusalem as the capital of the state they plan to declare in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

Mr. Barak vowed to do whatever it takes to defend Israelis.

"I continue to call on the Palestinian leadership for the cessation of violence and immediate implementation of the Sharm agreement," Mr. Barak said, referring to an unsuccessful truce brokered by President Clinton at a summit in Egypt two weeks ago.

Gen. Eiland, interviewed at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, said in most confrontations with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in the past two weeks, Israeli soldiers were facing armed Palestinian militants.

"There are very few demonstrations in which stones are the only weapons used on the other side," he said.

Gen. Eiland also said Palestinians might have obtained anti-aircraft missiles that could be used against Israeli helicopter gunships.

The helicopters, which Israel has used frequently in the five weeks of fighting, can occasionally be seen releasing decoys heat sources that attract missiles away from the helicopters.

Mr. Barak, meanwhile, worked yesterday to build an alliance with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, while prospects faded for a partnership with the hawkish Likud faction led by Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Barak had been seeking to bring Mr. Sharon into his coalition, but contacts broke down Monday after the prime minister refused to grant Likud a veto right over future peace talks.

An angry Mr. Sharon said Mr. Barak could no longer be trusted.

"Apparently, he is not fit to lead the country," said Mr. Sharon, whose Sept. 28 visit to a contested Jerusalem shrine was cited by the Palestinians as a trigger for Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

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