- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2003

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Thousands of Palestinians marched through the streets of the West Bank yesterday to support Yasser Arafat as they marked the third anniversary of the violent uprising, or intifada, which has claimed thousands of lives.

The demonstration came as the Palestinians appeared set to appoint a new Cabinet filled with Arafat loyalists, despite efforts by the United States and Israel to sideline the Palestinian leader whom they accuse of fomenting terror attacks.

Also yesterday, Islamic Jihad said one of its members was responsible for a weekend shooting attack on a West Bank settlement that killed two Israelis — one an infant — but they stopped short of claiming responsibility.

The intifada began Sept. 28, 2000, after Israel’s then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the hotly contested Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Palestinians called the visit a provocation, because Mr. Sharon emphasized Israel’s claim of sovereignty. A total of 2,477 persons have been killed on the Palestinian side and 860 on the Israeli side in the subsequent violence.

Today, the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan, stalled but still on the table, offers the Palestinians a state by 2005 if the violence ends.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, responsible for scores of suicide bombings against Israel, marked the anniversary yesterday with a pledge to continue the uprising.

In a statement released in the Gaza Strip, Hamas reiterated its opposition to the road map and called on the Palestinian Authority and the new Cabinet to uphold the Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, about 5,000 people from an array of Palestinian factions marched in support of Mr. Arafat and called for the intifada to continue.

Hamas supporters carried miniature versions of an Israeli bus and warplane to the center of town and burned them. Dozens of people dressed as suicide bombers wore mock explosive belts.

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