Barak orders withdrawal of soldiers : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Barak orders withdrawal of soldiers

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has ordered what he said was a temporary evacuation of soldiers in Joseph's Tomb, the first time Israel has relinquished territory as a direct result of Palestinian violence.

The pre-dawn evacuation of the soldiers who guard the tomb was taken after the tiny Israeli enclave in the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus came under heavy fire each day from Palestinian gunmen since the outbreak of hostilities over a week ago.

"The site was evacuated with the understanding that the Palestinian Authority is commiitted to protecting it," the army said in a statement.

It said the decision was taken by Mr Barak on the recommendation of his military chief of staff and the head of the Shin Bet security service

-- Martin Thompson (, October 07, 2000


Fresh fighting follows Israeli withdrawal from holy site

October 7, 2000 Web posted at: 4:25 a.m. EDT (0825 GMT)

In this story:

Israeli troops under fire

U.N. discusses resolution

A shack within the compound had been set on fire.

Using megaphones, Palestinian leaders urged the civilians to leave the tomb, but they were ignored. Giggling children emerged from the site wearing hats and flak jackets that the Israeli troops had left behind.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had ordered the Israeli soldiers to evacuate the shrine, which is a holy site to both the Jews and Muslims. One Israeli soldiers was injured during the withdrawal.

"It's a victory for the Palestinian people over the Israelis," said Haitham Joudeh, a 22-year-old student, as people in the crowd kissed one another in joy.

However, Barak said the evacuation was a temporary measure. The withdrawal marked the first time Palestinian violence prompted Israel to relinquish territory.

Israeli troops under fire "Israeli forces evacuated, temporarily, the border patrol unit that guarded Joseph's Tomb, and also removed religious artifacts and equipment," Israeli army said in a statement.

"The site was evacuated with the understanding that the Palestinian Authority is committed to protecting it," the army said.

The pre-dawn evacuation was carried out after the Israeli enclave in Nablus, a Palestinian-controlled town, had been fired upon by Palestinian gunmen daily since hostilities erupted more than a week ago.

Palestinian officials said the move was aimed at reducing tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis. The recent clashes occurred mainly in areas where Israeli-controlled and Palestinian-controlled areas meet.

The latest tensions erupted nine days ago after Israeli opposition politician Ariel Sharon, who leads the Likud Party, visited another holy shrine in Jerusalem. The Palestinians considered the visit a provocation.

That site is known by the Jews as the Temple Mount, and is called Haram as-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, by Palestinians.

Both the Jews and Palestinians regard the site as sacred -- the Jews say it is the remaining portion of their Temple, and the Palestinians because it is home to two mosques, and tradition says Prophet Mohammed ascended from the shrine to heaven.

U.N. discusses resolution Meanwhile, at least 77 people, mostly Palestinians have died during several fierce clashes at Joseph's Tomb in the past week. The lone Israeli soldier to die during the clashes bled to death in the tomb as rescuers tried for hours to reach him.

Barak's announcement came as the U.N. Security Council met early Saturday morning in New York, for the second consecutive night, to negotiate a Palestinian-backed resolution that would condemn the violence, and call for an inquiry.

The United States threatened late Friday to veto the draft if changes weren't made. "The United States is not going to support a resolution which is incompatible with our national interests, or the facts as we see them on the ground," said U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

Barak reached the decision, the military said, based on a recommendation of his military chief of staff and the head of the Shin Bet security service.

Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, a senior aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said Israel had agreed, during a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security officials, to withdraw a 10-man force from the tomb at 3 a.m. (0100 GMT). He said Israeli officials had requested that meeting.

"The evacuation came to reduce tension in the area, which has been a center of violence during the past week," Abdel-Rahim said. However, it was uncertain if the move would reduce that friction.

"The Palestinian side has demanded, more than once, the evacuation of Israeli forces, to end friction there. I appeal to the Palestinians not to approach Joseph's Tomb because the reason for confrontation there has been removed," he said.

Palestinian police stand in front of Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank on Saturday after they took control of the holy shrine from Israel 'Day of rage' On Friday, Israeli forces shot dead eight Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, during a "day of rage" called by Arafat's Fatah party and the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Israeli police shot and wounded at least 27 other Palestinians on Friday during confrontations with stone-throwers in East Jerusalem after Muslim Friday prayers, witnesses said. At least 24 Israeli police officers were injured.

Elsewhere, two Palestinians were killed in Nablus when Israeli security forces opened fire on a group marching toward a nearby Jewish settlement; another died in nearby Tulkaram and three were killed in Gaza. At Netzarim Junction in Gaza, new fighting occurred after the funeral of a young Palestinian who had died on Thursday.

In New York, approximately 2,000 people snarled traffic as they filled Times Square -- chanting "Long live Palestine," and "No justice, no peace" -- to protest against the killings of the Palestinians.

In an interview Friday on Israel's Channel Two television, Barak said that he was pessimistic about the chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians. He also defended Israel's right to use force in self- defense.

"The moment it is clear to us that there is no peace and there is violence, we will battle and defend our soldiers and citizens, even if it will be against all the world. Full stop," he said.

Barak said Israel would "win any war" that might break out. Asked if he believed that the faltering Israeli- Palestinian peace process would continue, he said: "I don't know. At the moment, tonight, I am not optimistic." ml

-- Martin Thompson (, October 07, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ