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>Israel Faxx
>JN Oct. 5, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 172

Arabs at the U.N. Condemn Israel

By Breck Ardery (VOA-United Nations)

Israel was harshly criticized Wednesday as representatives of a group of mostly Arab nations spoke in the United Nations Security Council. Non-members of the Security Council were invited to speak on the second day of a public discussion on the Mideast violence. The speakers, the majority from Arab nations, universally condemned Israel for what they described as the use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians.

The comments from Algeria's ambassador Abdallah Baali were typical. Speaking through an English interpreter, Baali said Palestinian civilians are no match for heavily armed Israeli security forces.

"The result of this obviously disproportionate confrontation is that scores of innocent people including very young children, and there was one of 10-years old in the Gaza strip just today, killed in cold blood by bullets, real bullets. All they have to fight against their assassins are their fists and their stones. It is a situation where even the ambulances bearing the flag of the Red Cross have been fired at. This is barbaric behavior which harks back to another age."

Clashes Spread: Arabs Blame Sharon's Visit to Temple Mount

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

At least 60 people are dead and more than 1,000 wounded after a week of bloody clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. The riots were sparked when Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, under heavy guard, visited a sensitive site in Jerusalem's Old City that is sacred to Muslims and Jews.

When 72-year-old Ariel Sharon, the leader of the Likud opposition party, visited the Temple Mount he stepped onto what is probably the most sensitive religious and political site in the entire Middle East. For Jews the site of the biblical First and Second Temples is the holiest place on earth.

Muslims call the site the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and believe it is the place where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. It is the third-holiest site in Islam, ranking in importance only after Mecca and Medina. Marking the spot are two large mosques, al-Aqsa and perhaps Jerusalem's best known landmark -- the Dome of the Rock.

Israel captured the area during the 1967 Middle East war and a dispute over sovereignty at the site has held up progress in peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat.

At the time of his visit, Sharon said he did not intend to provoke an outcry. "I came here not as a provocation, but I came here in order, really, to bring a message of peace. I believe that we can live together with the Palestinians. I believe that we can live together. I believe we can develop the country together."

Sharon's visit, however, enraged Palestinians who immediately began clashing with police in protest. The violence exploded in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and inside Israel, turning much of the region into a war zone.

Sheik Mohammed Hussein is the director of the al-Aqsa Mosque. "It was really unbelievable to have one person coming to al-Aqsa Mosque being guarded by 3,000 soldiers to affirm that Israelis have sovereignty or that the occupation has sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif. But we emphasize to the whole world, and in fact what has happened emphasizes only the Palestinian people have sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif. The Palestinian people are the only people who have the capability to preserve religious freedoms for all religions, for Muslims, Christians and Jews."

Many Palestinians say Sharon desecrated their holy site by his visit. Palestinians remember that when Sharon was defense minister in the 1980s, hundreds of unarmed Palestinians were massacred in Lebanon by Israeli-backed Christian Lebanese militiamen. An Israeli government report found Sharon was "indirectly responsible" for the killings, which took place in refugee camps controlled by the Israeli Army. But Sharon was well-known to Palestinians even before the Lebanon massacre.

In the early 1950s, Sharon led Israeli commandos on a mission that blew up dozens of homes in an Arab village near the West Bank town of Ramallah. Many people were killed, including women and children.

The Palestinians' top representative in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, says Israeli officials should have known Sharon's visit would provoke violence.

"We called the Americans, we called the Europeans, we called the Israelis themselves telling them that such a move will create a very big problem. Don't take it as a simple matter. It is not. Such a matter can be like opening a Pandora's Box where you will not know what kind of evils can come after that. Unfortunately, the political level in Israel did not take that seriously."

Sharon says he visited the site because he is convinced Israel must retain sovereignty over the area in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Since the outbreak of violence he has defiantly defended the visit, saying the violence is part of a premeditated campaign by the Palestinian Authority.

"Everything that happened there, and we are really very sorry for every casualty, but the one who is responsible for that directly -- that is Arafat. Therefore, there is no reason to blame anyone else."

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