"A Sad and Difficult Day"

  • Share
  • Read Later
JERUSALEM: While Palestinians and Israelis fought in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on television to denounce Palestinians for "seriously undermining the structure of the peace process, with acts of violence and terror." But by Friday night, with U.S. assistance, Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reached a tentative agreement to meet Sunday to work toward quelling the recent spate of violence. Details of the meeting had not been finalized, including what concessions each side would have to make before the two meet. Arafat has demanded that the second entrance to an archaeological tunnel running beneath the Al Aqsa compound be closed before he meets with Netanyahu. The opening of the tunnel sparked the violence, in which at least 68 Palestinians and Israelis were killed in the last four days, the bloodiest of such conflict in decades. On Friday afternoon, worshipers who had gathered for noon prayers at one of Islam's holiest sites began throwing stones at Israeli police, who responded with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. Three Palestinians were killed at the Mosque, while three more Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers died in renewed gun battles in the West Bank and Gaza. In some places, Palestinian troops are heeding Arafat's call to restrain the rioters, while at least some of the 30,000 strong Palestinian police force have joined with protesters and turned their weapons on Israeli soldiers. "On this issue, it is not in Netanyahu's and Arafat's interest that the situation spin out of control," says TIME's Jamil Hamad. "But the question of whether Arafat is fully in charge of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza has been raise." Hamad reports that the large numbers of Palestinians disagree with Arafat on the peace process. "They are frustrated and suffering, paying the highest price, economically speaking. Arafat has the challenge of proving to the outside world that he is capable of controlling the situation - he has conflicting goals. The current violence will die down, but this should not lead anyone to be misled that normality has been restored." -->