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Gaza assault fuels rage across the spectrum.

Byline: Inter Press Service

Summary: Anger, shock and revulsion at the continuing carnage in Gaza has ignited spontaneous demonstrations and riots across the Occupied West Bank and Israel, sparking concerns of a possible third Palestinian uprising or intifada. At least 280 Palestinians were killed and at least 900 wounded following an intensive Israeli bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

Mel Frykberg

Inter Press Service

RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Anger, shock and revulsion at the continuing carnage in Gaza has ignited spontaneous demonstrations and riots across the Occupied West Bank and Israel, sparking concerns of a possible third Palestinian uprising or intifada. At least 280 Palestinians were killed and at least 900 wounded following an intensive Israeli bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip over the weekend. This followed a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian fighters at Israeli towns and cities bordering the coastal territory in the last few weeks that caused some damage but no casualties.

The rocket attacks followed the shattering of a five-month old cease-fire by Israel in an early November invasion of the territory. The deadly offensive along with Israeli assassinations in the Occupied West Bank prompted Palestinian fighters to resume their attacks on southern Israel.

Hamas's leader in exile, Damascus-based Khaled Meshaal, has called on Palestinians to rise up against Israel. The Palestinian Authority in the Occupied West Bank called for a three-day strike in sympathy with Gaza's plight.

Following Israel's aerial assault, one Israeli was killed and several wounded in retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza Saturday afternoon. This was Israel's first fatality in many months.

The first Palestinian intifada broke out in December of 1987 when Palestinian refugees from a camp in the north of Gaza clashed with Israeli soldiers after the death of several Palestinians after an Israeli settler's car plowed into their vehicle.

Palestinian-Israelis, descendents of the indigenous population that wasn't ethnically cleansed from their lands during the imposition of Israel in 1948, clashed Saturday with Israeli police throughout Israel. In the bedouin village of Rahat in the Negev Desert, around 400 residents protested the attacks, while mosques throughout the town broadcast prayers of mourning.

The High Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel issued a statement on Sunday calling for protests against the Israeli "massacres" in all Palestinian-Israeli towns "as a symbol of the rage and severe grief of the Palestinian nation upon the loss of hundreds of its citizens in Gaza." The group also called for international sanctions to be levied against Israel and recognizing the Zionist state as a "criminal" nation committing "acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Several hundred left-wing Israelis marched through the streets of Tel Aviv toward the Israeli Defense Ministry headquarters chanting "No to war, yes to peace."

The protesters carried signs reading, "Israel's government is committing war crimes," "Negotiation instead of slaughter," and "Lift the siege from Gaza."

Several Israeli protesters were arrested. Matan Kaminer, an Israeli student who took part in the protest, told the Israeli daily Haaretz that "no one can tell us that slaughtering the citizens of Gaza is meant to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon [two Israeli towns bordering the Gaza strip]."

An Israeli police officer was deliberately run over by a Palestinian in Occupied Jerusalem as groups of Palestinian youths clashed with police in the city, stoning them and setting dumpsters on fire. Palestinian protesters from Occupied West Bank towns and refugee camps took to the streets and marched on Israeli checkpoints and Israeli settlements. Many were wounded by rubber-coated bullets - marble-sized metal balls covered in half a millimeter of rubber -Aa fired by Israeli soldiers.

One Palestinian protester was killed after being shot in the chest by live ammunition at a protest in Nilin and another seriously wounded on Sunday. The two had thrown rocks at Israeli police.

In Ramallah hundreds of protesters from various Palestinian factions waved banners and flags, and decried the Gaza slaughter. They called for unity and for Gaza's Hamas leader, deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to bury their differences and put the Palestinian cause above their personal politics. Many in the crowd waved Fatah flags, associated with Abbas and the PA, showing clearly their empathy with fellow Palestinians despite the political divide between the two Palestinian territories.

IPS joined the demonstration as it marched around Ramallah. In the crowd were people from all sections of Palestinian society. Elegantly turned out middle-aged women from Ramallah's Christian minority marched side by side with tough young men from the surrounding refugee camps.

"I couldn't just sit at home. I felt overwhelming anger at the situation in Gaza and I needed to show my solidarity," Munther, a young computer programmer for the Palestinian Legislative Council who voted for Abbas in the last election, told IPS .

As the crowd circled the city center, Palestinian police looked on quietly and stood back. But when the demonstrators marched on the Muqata, the government headquarters of the PA where Abbas was in his office, the mood of the Palestinian security forces changed.

On approaching the Muqata's entrance the crowd was met by Palestinian soldiers who took up positions and held their weapons at the ready. But the youth decided to head toward the nearby Israeli military checkpoint of Beit El.

While the more cautious in the crowd stood back, the young men headed toward waiting Israeli military jeeps and tanks and started to sling stones at them, and set tires alight to block the road.

The Israelis responded with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets, wounding a number of youngsters who were rushed to nearby hospitals in Palestinian ambulances. This IPS correspondent helped two youths injured by rubber bullets to hospital. They were shot as they stoned the soldiers.

As dozens of Palestinian riot police arrived on the scene to disperse the protesters, one of them remarked that the police arrival had been coordinated with their Israeli colleagues on the other side of the checkpoint.

"They are nothing but quislings and a militia of the Israelis. Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Gaza, and who do they aim their weapons at? Not the Israelis but us, their brethren protesting the slaughter," said one of the youths.

"There will be more protests tomorrow and I will be back," he added, as he stepped out of the taxi and limped toward the emergency room. - With The Daily Star

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Dec 29, 2008
Words:1084
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