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>JN May 16, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 84

Arafat: Full Israeli Withdrawal and Right Of Return

By IsraelNationalNews.com

As if the eight years of Oslo - in which Israel created and armed the Palestinian Authority, then gave it 42 persent of Judea, Samaria and Gaza - had never existed,

PA Chairman Yasir Arafat demanded that
Israel withdraw all its forces and residents from the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza as a condition for peace. He further said that peace depends on the realization of the "right" of return for all Arab refugees from 1948 and 1967.


Violence Flares as Palestinians Mark 'Great Catastrophe'

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Tuesday to mark the 53rd anniversary of what they call the "great catastrophe" - the creation of Israel and the mass displacement of Palestinians from land now part of the Jewish state.

Violence flared throughout the territories - gunfire from Israeli troops killed at least four Palestinians and wounded at least 130 during clashes near military checkpoints and Jewish settlements. After nightfall, a Jewish settler was killed and her father was wounded as they drove on a road in the West Bank.

The marches, rallies and speeches in towns across the occupied territories commemorated the events in 1948, when about 700,000 Palestinians became refugees in the Arab-Israeli war that followed the birth of Israel. Sirens wailed as Palestinians stood in silence for three minutes to mark the darkest day in their calendar.

In a speech broadcast to the rallies, Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat said Israeli military might would never make Palestinians surrender their dream of an independent state. He said Palestinians would only accept a peace deal based on a complete Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 MidEast war and recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

"The way of peace, it is very clear like the sun, and it is the way of the full withdrawal of the Israeli occupation army and the settlers from all the Palestinian and Arab land to the 1967 border," Arafat said.

One of the Palestinians killed during the day was a bodyguard of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The bodyguard died when an Israeli tank shell hit his car after Palestinians fired mortar shells at an Israeli outpost in the Gaza Strip.

Another fatality was a teenage stone-thrower shot dead near the Erez crossing. Two Palestinians were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces on the edge of the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

Sirens sounded throughout the West Bank and Gaza as Palestinians observed three minutes of silence to commemorate what they call al-Nakba "the great catastrophe" marking the creation of Israel on May 15, 1948.


Israel Says It Didn't Intend to Kill Palestinian Police

By VOA News

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz said Israel did not intend to kill five Palestinian policemen shot dead by Israeli troops at a checkpoint in the West Bank on Monday.

The five were killed in their post at Beituniya near the town of Ramallah. Israel says its troops have been fired upon from the post in the past and came under fire again Monday but that Monday's shots may not have come from the post itself.

At least two of the policemen were sleeping at the time of the Israeli attack. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat denounced the killings as assassinations and said Israel would be held accountable.

Mofaz said Israel's military should investigate the incident, and that if a mistake was made, the army would not be ashamed to admit it.


Water Crisis May Boost Middle East Cooperation

By Nico Colombant (VOA-Washington)


Among the challenges facing the Middle East is declining access to water. Experts at a conference organized by the Middle East Institute in Washington believe the growing need for water in the region is also a potential source of cooperation.

Experts said 45 million people in the Middle East lack access to drinking water. The problem is particularly acute today, because drought conditions in countries including Syria, Jordan and Israel are the worst in decades, slowing agricultural output. There are also imbalances in water access between neighboring populations. Palestinians use a quarter of the water consumed by their Israeli neighbors.

The result is a potentially explosive situation. Some experts say water problems contributed to war in 1967, when Israel and Syria fought over the Golan Heights and access to the freshwater Sea of Galilee.

Kenley Brunsdale, an advisor to a Washington-based lobbying organization, the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, stressed that water is one of the few issues where there has been agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, during their seven months of clashes.

Brunsdale said the two sides agreed in January to make efforts to protect water infrastructure from the violence. "I know personally that high-level Palestinians and Israelis continue to talk almost daily on how they can cooperate and help each other with the immediate drought issues they both suffer from," he said. "And I think that's significant, that the water issue is almost above the fray and becoming one of the few real forms of ongoing cooperation that you can see."


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