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CRISIS IN THE MIDEAST

Palestinians React With Anger and Bitterness to Accord

West Bank: 'We are betrayed,' says one after hearing of the agreement to halt the violence. Renewed fighting kills two Arabs, critically injures an Israeli.

October 18, 2000|REBECCA TROUNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Osama Nazzal stood on a street corner in this volatile Palestinian city Tuesday, shaking his head in bitter frustration.

Even under the fiercest diplomatic pressure, the university student asked, how could Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat have agreed to a summit deal that many Palestinians consider a betrayal of their cause and their interests?

"Arafat should have refused to sign this shameful, humiliating agreement and left the region to a great explosion," said Nazzal, 25, an English major at Birzeit University.

Instead, he said angrily, "we are betrayed."

Meeting in Egypt under the auspices of the United States, the United Nations and the European Union--and with a strong push from Jordan and Egypt--Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to halt the violence that has racked this region for nearly three weeks. More than 100 people--almost all of them Palestinians--have died in the fighting, and hundreds more have been injured.

But as fresh fighting flared Tuesday across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing two more Palestinians and critically injuring an Israeli border policeman, Palestinians greeted the news of a summit deal with anything but enthusiasm. Many charged that Arafat was returning home with little to make up for so many dead and wounded.

"We lost a lot of people in the fighting," said Samer Taha, 27, a jewelry store owner in Ramallah. "And now, in spite of that, everything should just go back to the way it was? Basically, we are losing--losing everything."

In announcing the agreement, President Clinton said the two sides had agreed to resume the military positions they held as of Sept. 28, when the wave of violence began.

Even Arafat's own Fatah movement described the summit as a failure, calling for a "day of rage" against Israeli troops and Jewish settlers today, and raising new questions about the Palestinian leader's ability to control the angry streets.

West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, whom Israel holds responsible for much of the recent violence, said the summit had failed to address the most fundamental reason for the unrest.

"We have to put an end to the Israeli occupation. If they don't deal with this issue, I don't think that they succeeded," Barghouti said as he led a protest march of several hundred Palestinians through Ramallah at midafternoon.

Several far-right Israeli politicians and Jewish settler leaders also were sharply critical. Uzi Landau, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party, said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had "surrendered" to Arafat, not the other way around.

And the settlers' umbrella council issued a statement accusing Barak of "forgetting who has murdered our soldiers and burnt our synagogues," pointed references to some of the ugliest events of the recent fighting. Two Israeli army reservists were killed by a mob in Ramallah on Thursday, and holy sites have been attacked by both sides.

For the most part, though, Israelis were relatively positive--even if it was only in voicing relief that the summit had ended with a result, no matter how limited. Israeli officials said the government had achieved most of its goals, including obtaining an agreement to halt the violence and finessing a Palestinian demand for an international inquiry into Israel's use of force during the rioting.

The fact-finding committee will be led by the United States; the Palestinians had asked that it be headed by the United Nations.

But some Israelis were wary, saying they would wait for the deal to be implemented before judging it.

"There are two fronts for stopping the violence: diplomatic and military," acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said after the summit. "On the diplomatic front, we returned with all our goals achieved. But we must now examine whether this bears fruit on the ground."

That was still uncertain Tuesday, hours after the agreement was reached.

The Israeli border guard was injured in an outbreak of shooting on the southern edge of Jerusalem. Israeli police said shots were fired from the Palestinian town of Beit Jala toward houses in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood built on land occupied by the Israelis during the 1967 Middle East War.

Israelis responded with fire from tanks that had been positioned near Gilo after several recent shooting incidents. A number of Jewish families were evacuated after the exchanges of fire, and Israeli officials warned that Palestinian families in Beit Jala could be forced out as well if there is further violence.

Earlier, a Palestinian policeman was killed in a clash in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian civilian was shot to death in a confrontation with Jewish settlers not far from the West Bank town of Nablus.

Palestinians also held angry demonstrations throughout the day, including a march by an estimated 10,000 people that followed the funeral of a teenage boy killed by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Monday.

And, in case there was any doubt, two militant Islamic groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, announced that they plan to ignore any cease-fire reached by Israel and the Palestinians. Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Hamas group, said the deal reached at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik does not apply to his movement.

"This agreement is not binding because it is imposed by America and Israel on the Palestinian people," Yassin said.

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