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Return to the listing of articles of October 10, 2000. Palestinians turn anger toward the United States

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Pressing a handkerchief to her nose, eyes streaming from tear gas, 21-year-old Palestinian student Houddeh Hamid gestured toward the rock-throwing clash in progress just down the road. ''This is all America's fault,'' she said angrily.

Amid the 12-day outbreak of violence that has swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many Palestinians are expressing growing bitterness toward the United States -- sentiments that could complicate the long-running American bid to broker a Mideast peace.

Israel, of course, is the primary target of Palestinian fury over the clashes that have left dozens dead, nearly all of them Palestinians. But the United States, as Israel's closest ally and chief protector, is seen by many Palestinians as bearing a heav y share of responsibility for the methods Israel has used to try to quell the violence.

''With one word from America, all this would stop -- the tanks, the helicopters, the live ammunition,'' said Mohib Barghouti, a Palestinian journalist, speaking as gunfire, apparently from both sides, rang out during a clash Monday on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Israel has defended its tactics -- including deploying battle tanks at the edge of Palestinian cities and firing from helicopter gunships -- as being necessary to protect Israeli soldiers. Israeli officials point out that lightly manned Israeli military ou tposts have come under attack from enormous mobs, and that Palestinian gunmen sometimes use rock-throwing rioters as cover.

Among Palestinians, however, emotions are running high over the bloodshed. Hamid, the young student, said many of her friends had been killed or injured in the clashes.

''We all think America should help us, not let Israel do these things to us,'' she said.

Palestinian resentment over the American role is beginning to make itself felt on the ground. At a demonstration in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the U.S. flag was burned. In the past week, some American journalists covering street battles have encountered h ostile questioning from Palestinians about their nationality, or been roughed up by protesters.

Palestinian newspapers have run frequent editorials criticizing the U.S. stance, and Palestinian media have given prominent coverage to anti-American protests elsewhere in the Arab world in recent days. Syrians and Jordanians have marched on the U.S. emb assies in their capitals, and a Saudi cleric at one of Riyadh's largest mosques called for jihad -- holy war -- against Israel and its supporters, spelling out American embassies, companies and individuals as legitimate targets.

Last week, Palestinians watched with dismay as the United States first sought to soften and then abstained from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning excessive use of force in the clashes. After U.S.-brokered talks in Paris failed to br ing a halt to the fighting, Palestinians accused the United States of siding with Israel in its rejection of Palestinian demands for an international inquiry into the violence.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat suggested that U.S. pressure on Israel to accept an international inquiry could have helped to produce a cease-fire days ago.

Israel, for its part, is eager to see U.S. mediation continue, and quickly moved to smooth over tensions stemming from the U.S. decision not to veto the Security Council resolution.

''We are interested in a strong U.S. role, and I don't think there is any alternative to a strong U.S. role,'' said Avi Pazner, a veteran diplomat who is now an acting government spokesman. ''That doesn't mean we agree on every single issue ... We would have liked to see the United States veto the anti-Israeli resolution in the Security Council, but these are normal issues between friends.''

The current wave of violence erupted less than two months after the unsuccessful Camp David summit, as some Palestinian officials were still nursing grievances over what they felt was unfair blame cast on them by the White House for those talks' failure.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 10, 2000

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