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Arabs pray, mourn to mark year of intifada
By Najir Majally, Arab News Staff
BEIRUT, 29 September — Arabs across the Middle East marked the anniversary of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation with prayers, protests and silent respect for the 595 Palestinians who have died in the conflict.
The first anniversary of the Palestinian intifada erupted yesterday into one of the bloodiest days of an uprising which has already cost more than 830 lives, as five Palestinians were killed and more than 70 were injured in an explosion of rage against Israel.
Violence swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip while Israel deployed hundreds of police around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, where rioting at a visit by Ariel Sharon — the opposition leader and now prime minister — heralded the start of a year of unrest. Despite restrictions, around 10,000 Muslims turned out for prayers.
The wave of unrest rocked a newly-declared cease-fire even as Israeli and Palestinian officials held their first joint security meeting in Tel Aviv to find ways of implementing the truce deal and easing the situation on the ground.
Thousands of Palestinians turned out for demonstrations and to observe three minutes silence at 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), and the rallies quickly degenerated into stone throwing against Israel army positions.
Israeli troops responded with rifle fire, often with live bullets, killing three Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron, where another young Palestinian man was also killed.
Clashes hit fever pitch in the city, where 14 other Palestinians and three Israelis, including a solider, were also hurt in a spate of incidents.
A third Palestinian was killed in an outlying district of Bethlehem to the north, where seven others were injured. A fourth man died of wounds sustained in clashes in Ramallah last week.
A joint security committee met in Tel Aviv for the first time since July to discuss ways of acting on the accord. Israel promised to open the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt tomorrow, and allow the free movement of traffic in major Palestinian towns, but only if the situation is calm.
The Palestinians undertook to clamp down on regular attacks on Israeli Army positions at Rafah as well as mortar attacks on Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli side said.
In Lebanon about 3,000 people, some carrying rifles, marched through the Ain El-Hilweh refugee camp in south Lebanon. Many refugees, languishing in squalid camps for a half century, said the intifada offered their sole, faint hope of regaining their land and escaping the misery of the camps.
-- Swissrose (email@example.com), September 29, 2001