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'Go at Them,' Youths Told : Bloodiest Day in Gaza; U.N. Aide Sees 'Uprising'

December 16, 1987|DAN FISHER | Times Staff Writer

GAZA, Israeli-Occupied Gaza Strip — "Young people, go at them!" urged the amplified voice from the tower of the mosque across the street from this city's main hospital.

"Don't be afraid!" the voice shouted in Arabic as scores of Palestinian youths hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at armed Israeli troops on the streets below. "Don't back down!"

Mahmoud Sakhli, 22, and Ibrahim Daqar, 23, followed that advice to their deaths Tuesday, two of at least four fatalities here during the bloodiest day yet in a weeklong orgy of violence that a ranking U.N. official said has become "a popular uprising."

The two were among the casualties when Israeli forces fired on demonstrators who had taken shelter within the courtyard of Shifa Hospital.

The military command confirmed that a fifth Gazan died in an Israeli hospital Tuesday of wounds incurred in an earlier clash, bringing the death toll in the Israeli-occupied territories since the trouble began last Wednesday to at least 13, nine of them in Gaza.

There were unconfirmed reports of two more Gazans shot to death in clashes Tuesday.

U.N. and hospital sources said that about 200 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli army gunfire during the last week, including at least 11 on Tuesday.

"We've given up on (counting) any other form of casualties," said one U.N. official.

Western journalists who raced up and down the entire, 28-mile length of this overcrowded strip of Mediterranean seacoast trying to keep up with each new, violent flare-up found an almost desperate sense of rage among its 650,000 Palestinian occupants. They have lived under military occupation since the Israelis conquered the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the Jordan River in the 1967 Six-Day War.

"Come and kill us or get out!" angry youths shouted at the equally youthful Israeli troops who faced them in the streets outside Gaza's Shifa Hospital.

On the wall surrounding the Bureij refugee camp a few miles south of Gaza somebody had scrawled in red paint: "We will die standing, but we will not kneel."

Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi, head of the local Red Crescent Society, the Arab equivalent of the Red Cross, commented: "They are suffering heavy casualties because their backs are to the wall."

Angry at Allies

The Gazans are increasingly angry--not just at Israel, but at those whom they see as Israel's allies against the Palestinian cause.

"Look! Look!" 16-year-old Ayman Ali shouted as he thrust a spent tear-gas canister at an American reporter in Nuseirat Camp after helmeted army troops dispersed demonstrators there. " 'Made in USA,' " he read out as he pointed to an English inscription on the metal tube.

A Palestinian at Shifa Hospital warned three American reporters who went inside just before the fatal Israeli army attack against demonstrators that they should know they were entering at their own risk.

"The people are very extremist," the man said in broken English. "All of us think that you, the Americans and the Europeans, have created this problem."

Later a group of youths, outraged because they thought one of the reporters had taken their photograph, attacked him with fists in a hospital hallway. The journalist, John Kifner of the New York Times, required two stitches to close a cut over his left eye, and one of his cameras was broken.

Scuffle With Journalists

The Palestinians also manhandled another American photographer and an Australian journalist, breaking a camera and tape recorder in the process.

"We're very worried about the situation," said Bernard Mills, director of U.N. Relief and Works Agency operations in the Gaza Strip.

At Nuseirat Camp during the Israeli army operation there, Mills described the unrest as "a general breakdown in law and order, or a popular uprising." In contrast to previous incidents, he said, "this is just everywhere, and not just in one or two places."

Also, he added: "Much older people appear to be involved. Before it was only the young--this was really a 'Children's Crusade.' But now it's the population as a whole."

Mills charged that the army had exacerbated the situation by its harsh tactics. He said U.N. officers had witnessed Palestinian youths being tied to the hoods of Israeli army jeeps and "used as a shield" as the Israelis advanced against stone-throwers in the camps.

'Faces Bleeding'

U.N. officials who requested anonymity said they had seen 10 Palestinians arrested at the Deir el Balah refugee camp in central Gaza on Tuesday, all of whom bore "marks of beating. Their faces were puffed up and bleeding."

Disturbances were reported in virtually every town and refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and reporters saw roadblocks of scorched or burning tires, scrap metal, and garbage bins at a dozen or more locations around the city of Gaza alone.

The unrest, which continued into the night, was so widespread that no two groups had the same list of fatalities, much less of the wounded.

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