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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 14, 1997, Vol. 5, #126

16 Wounded as Hebron Unrest Continues

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli troops wounded 16 Palestinians sunday, among them five journalists, in renewed clashes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the Palestinian Authority of further hardships for its people if nothing is done to stop the daily violence.

Following two weeks of almost daily unrest in Hebron, the Israeli army erected concrete barriers overnight along the line dividing the Palestinian-ruled part of the city and the area still controlled by Israel.

Israel handed more than 80 percent of Hebron to the PLO in January under a peace agreement, but kept some troops behind to guard Jewish settlers living in the heart of the city.

Palestinians complained that the concrete barriers isolate 20,000 Palestinian residents living in the Israeli-controlled sector, and prevent shopkeepers from opening for business.

The barriers also failed to stop yet another round of confrontation. Palestinians threw fire bombs at Israeli troops and burned Israeli flags; soldiers responded with a hail of rubber bullets. This time, not only Palestinian rioters were wounded, but journalists as well.

Israel's Foreign Press Association accused the soldiers of deliberately targeting the journalists. The charge was strongly denied by the army spokesman, who said journalists ought to know they are taking a risk by being in the area.

Speaking to a group of visiting Jewish leaders Sunday, Netanyahu blamed Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority. "They're fomenting many of these demonstrations, and they're not preventing them with the abundant, I would say the over-abundant Palestinian police forces in Hebron."

At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that there will be a heavy price to pay if the violence continues.

Hebron's Mayor Mustapha Natche accuses Israel of provoking the Palestinians by the offensive racist posters put up recently by right-wing extremists. And he denies the Palestinian Authority is encouraging the violence.

"I think the Palestinian Authority didn't interfere in supporting the violence in the city. It is a natural response from the Palestinian youth to the frustration and the situation in the city."

The Israeli commander in charge of the West Bank also warned that Israel would crack down further on city residents if the violence continues.

The Israeli army has already stepped up its attempts to get a grip on the deteriorating situation in Hebron, throwing up roadblocks around the city to prevent outsiders from getting in, and making it difficult for anyone to get out.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since March, when Israel began construction on a site in disputed east Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Consul-General Resigns

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been deadlocked for four months since Israel began construction of new Jewish housing in disputed east Jerusalem. One person who has been closely involved with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, almost since they began, is the US Consul-General in Jerusalem, Edward Abington.

Abington is leaving his post and he looked back on his four turbulent years as an American mediator.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem is unique among America's diplomatic missions. Since it was established in the 1840s in the Holy Land, the consulate has remained an independent post, not accredited to any government. Since the historic Oslo Agreement between Israel and the PLO, Jerusalem's Consul General has been charged by Washington to deal with the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

From the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn in September 1993, Abington has been intimately involved with the negotiations to implement those principles.

The task of the facilitators, says Abington, was to try and help the parties rebuild trust so that they could negotiate an acceptable arrangement. Abington says a serious decline in the Palestinians' standard of living has undermined their faith in the peace process.

Recently, American diplomatic efforts appear to be on hold. But Abington says the lowered profile of the United States is tactical. He says the fact that there have been no high level visits to the region, and by no means the United States has stepped back from its active role in the peace process. America's involvement, he insists, is as strong as ever.

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