Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Kislev 5761 - December 6, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Assault on Kever Rochel; Heavy Fighting Renewed
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and N. Segal

In a fierce, three-hour battle Monday, Palestinian gunmen attacked Kever Rochel, which remains under full Israeli control and under Israeli guard at the entrance to Bethlehem. Israel Defense Force officials said the Palestinians, who launched a coordinated attack from three directions, were trying to take over the tomb.

Israeli control of the site is guaranteed by various agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but since the recent violence began Palestinian officials have demanded that Israel evacuate the site. Mindful of the way that kever Yosef near Shechem was destroyed as soon as Israeli troops evacuated in October despite explicit Palestinian undertaking to preserve it, Israel has refused to leave Kever Rochel.

An army spokesman described the attack as one of the most "dangerous" events since the Palestinian violence began in late September. The Palestinian attackers were making headway and they constituted a serious threat until Israeli helicopter gunships targeted a Palestinian position near a refugee camp, from which heavy fire had been directed at the troops at the tomb.

Palestinian officials said the fighting broke out after soldiers and Jewish settlers attacked Muslim worshipers in the nearby village of Hussan (near Beitar), wounding at least 25 people. The IDF said there was no such incident.

Preliminary stages of the agreement in the early days of the "peace" process between Israel and the Palestinians called for a return of Kever Rochel to Palestinian control. However, when the plans were made public, there was such a broad protest against the idea that Israeli negotiators were forced to renege on that part of the agreement.

Also on Monday, a member of the fundamentalist Hamas group whom the Palestinian Authority recently freed from jail along with dozens of other militants blew himself up in the Gaza Strip, apparently while preparing a bomb for use against a nearby Jewish settlement.

Monday's clashes prompted Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to repeat his call for an international peace keeping force to be sent to the region. Arafat also accused Israel of breaking pledges to try to end the violence. However in a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, Arafat declared that the Palestinian uprising will continue until his people's national goals are met.

Reviewing an honor guard after his return Monday from Qatar, Arafat carried a submachine gun to emphasize the readiness for violence. He said he was carrying the weapon because a main Gaza Strip road that he was traveling on was blocked by dozens of Jewish settlers protesting Israel's decision to reopen the artery to Palestinian traffic. The road had been closed to Palestinians following the bombing of an Israeli school bus two weeks ago in which two people were killed and nine wounded.

Israeli security officials said the settlers were cleared from the road before Arafat's convoy came through.

In other violence Monday, Gilo again came under fire from the nearby Arab town of Beit Jalla. There were no reports of injuries, but one apartment was damaged.

Israel this week said it would cooperate with a U.S.-led fact-finding panel probing the causes of the violence. To date, nearly 300 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have died since the unrest began two months ago.

Dismissing reports that he had rejected a U.S. offer to mediate the crisis, Barak also lashed out at Labor Party members whom he accused of pressuring him to try to reach an agreement with the Palestinians before the end of President Clinton's term on January 20. Barak last week agreed to early elections in the face of broad Knesset backing for such a move.

With Barak lagging in public opinion polls, it is widely believed that his main hope for reelection rests on clinching a deal with the Palestinians. But the prospects for reaching an accord in the near future are not strong.

Meanwhile, the Knesset on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would prevent a prime minister who lacks a parliamentary majority, such as Barak, from signing international agreements.


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