Diplomatic efforts broaden as Mideast death toll rises

JERUSALEM - Diplomatic efforts broadened as sporadic fighting between Jews and Arabs - well into a second week - marred Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Russia's foreign minister were traveling to the region Monday as the death toll climbed past 80.

Overnight, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Hebron were the bloody scenes of stone throwing violence and deadly gunfire exchanges. An Israeli Arab man died from a bullet wound to the chest late Sunday during clashes between Jewish and Arab youths in Jesus' boyhood town.

Seven others were in serious or critical condition from bullet wounds and another 40 Arab men, most in their early 20s, were treated for exposure to tear gas. Israeli police spokesman Ran Ofir said his troops used tear gas only to separate the sides and did not open fire. The regional police commissioner ordered an investigation. Arab leaders in Nazareth called for a general strike Monday accompanied by three days of mourning.

A Palestinian man was found in the village of Azoun neat Nablus on Monday morning, dead from a bullet wound to the head, Palestinian officials said. They said he had taken part in clashes with Israeli troops at midnight.

An American-born rabbi was found shot to death near a West Bank highway on Sunday and police said Palestinians were to blame. Jewish leaders in the United States called on President Clinton to hold Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat responsible for the death of Hillel Lieberman.

The death total in 11 days of violence was 85.

In the West Bank town of Hebron, four Palestinians were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops. There were no injuries in a similar exchange in Jerusalem. Police also fired rubber bullets at a crowd of about 150 Palestinian youths from a refugee camp who threw stones at a nearby road and bridge.

Palestinian officials, reacting to strong words from Israeli leader Ehud Barak and national security adviser Uzi Dayan, angrily rejected Israeli threats to end the street violence by Monday evening or see the peace process halted. Dayan said Israel could ''attack the headquarters of those responsible for the situation.''

Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan said the remarks were insulting. After years of involvement in negotiations, he said his optimism for peace had waned.

''Mr. Uzi Dayan should know very well that we will not bow to these threats. If his rockets failed to bring the Palestinians to their knees, then these threats won't bring the Palestinians to their knees, either,'' he said.

In Washington, the U.S. administration was working to arrange a summit meeting soon between Clinton and the region's leaders, possibly in Egypt, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The days of rage that have consumed Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since Sept. 28 have spread elsewhere. Israel was building up its forces on its northern border after Lebanese guerrillas seized three Israeli soldiers, shattering the calm that has prevailed there since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May.

Touring the northern border Sunday, Barak had a simple message for the Palestinians, for the Lebanese, and for the Syrians who are the real power in Lebanon: it's up to you to stop this from escalating.

''Syria has supreme responsibility to ensure that there will not be hostile actions against Israel from Lebanon,'' Barak said.

To Arafat, he repeated the ultimatum.

''If we will not see the difference actively implemented on the ground, and a calming down of the situation really occurring, we will draw the conclusion that Arafat deliberately has decided to abandon the negotiations,'' he said.

The Palestinians said it was up to the Israelis to stop the shooting, and they laid down their own condition: accept a U.N. Security Council call for an international commission to investigate the violence.

Nabil Aburdeneh, Arafat's chief adviser, echoed Barak's challenge, giving the Israelis 24 hours to stop shooting. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was arriving Monday as was Annan, who scheduled meetings with Barak and Arafat for Monday night.

Barak planned another Cabinet meeting as soon as Yom Kippur ended at sundown Monday, and was reportedly consulting with the opposition about establishing an emergency government.

Anger over the situation has spread through much of the Arab world, with protesters taking to the streets in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Always, the focus of the fury is the act considered to have set off the rioting in Jerusalem: a Sept. 28 visit by Ariel Sharon, the leader of the hard-line opposition Likud party, to a Jerusalem shrine holy to Muslims and Jews.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment