- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

GAZA CITY Palestinians buried six young men killed in some of the worst Palestinian infighting in years, and a second militant group appeared ready yesterday to heed Yasser Arafat's appeal to halt attacks against Israel.
As the procession for one of the dead, an Islamic Jihad supporter, passed a police station in Gaza, mourners formed a human chain to prevent any shooting between militants in the crowd and police.
At all six funerals in and around Gaza City, no one in the crowds of mourners was seen carrying weapons a sharp contrast to past funerals, accompanied by gun-toting militants firing into the air. All of the burials occurred without incident.
Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader, called for an end to attacks against Israel a week ago, and a subsequent crackdown carried out by Palestinian security forces led to clashes that left seven Palestinians dead and nearly 100 injured on Thursday and Friday. A funeral Friday erupted into violence when the procession passed a police station.
In another incident yesterday, Palestinian police arrested Shadi Mohana, the reputed head of the Islamic Jihad's military wing in northern Gaza, and his second-in-command, Mahmoud Judeh, Palestinian security sources said.
Israeli troops detained six Palestinians from their cars near a Jewish settlement in central Gaza, Palestinian security sources said. The Israeli military said it was unaware of any such arrests.
Mr. Arafat also said he intended to make his annual Christmas visit to the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, with or without approval from Israel, which controls the roads in and out of the West Bank town.
He effectively has been confined to the West Bank city of Ramallah since Israel destroyed his helicopters at the beginning of the month and then tightened a cordon around Palestinian towns following a Dec. 12 attack by Palestinian militants that killed 10 Israelis traveling on a bus.
"I will go [to Bethlehem], although Israel will not give me coordination," he said. "I will go, even walking."
Mr. Arafat has been going to Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations every year since the town came under Palestinian control in 1995. But Israeli officials have hinted they will keep him confined to Ramallah until Palestinian security forces arrest four suspects in the Oct. 17 killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.
Neighboring Jordan approached Israel on the issue, offering a military helicopter to ferry Mr. Arafat to Bethlehem, an Israeli defense official said on the condition of anonymity. The official said it would be considered.
Hamas, the militant group that has carried out many of the suicide bombings against Israel, said Friday it was suspending attacks in the interest of Palestinian unity.
Islamic Jihad, the other group responsible for multiple suicide bombings, distributed leaflets yesterday at the funerals and said it would do its part to prevent rifts among Palestinian groups. "Islamic Jihad will stand side-by-side with all [Palestinian] parties to protect the internal unity," the leaflet said.

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