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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept. 26, 1996 V4, #178
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Four Palestinians Dead, 300 Injured

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The hospital in the Palestinian town of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem, reports four Palestinians have been killed and more than 300 injured Wednesday in clashes with Israeli security forces. The violence erupted during protests against an Israeli excavation project in Jerusalem's Old City.

In one incident, Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinian police officers just outside Ramallah and then pursued them into the city. Israel says several of its soldiers were slightly injured.

It was a day of rock throwing and rubber-bullet battles between protesters and security forces in both Jerusalem and several West Bank cities.

In an incident in Ramallah, which escalated to involve live ammunition. The director of the Ramallah hospital, Dr. Shawqi Harb, gave the toll. "We have lots of wounded and it's a mess. We are employing the disaster plan. Things are relatively organized. But, of course, the people are very emotional."

The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, was described as grim and angry. "It is escalation from the Israeli government against our people. No one can accept what is going on."

In one incident, Israel says Palestinian police officers opened fire at Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint south of Ramallah. The Israelis returned the fire, and witnesses say they pursued their attackers into Ramallah. Israel denies those reports -- which, if true, would be the first Israeli incursion into autonomous Palestinian territory on the West Bank.

Demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops and police in Jerusalem for a second day, Wednesday.

It is an innocuous sound, from an innocent-looking revolving gate. But this gate is at the end of a tunnel Israeli archaeologists have excavated under Jerusalem's Old City, and its opening Tuesday sparked two days of Palestinian protests and many clashes with Israeli security forces -- some of them bloody.

Outside the Damascus Gate to the Old City, Israeli mounted police rode their horses into a group led by the senior Islamic mufti of Jerusalem and Palestinian Finance Minister Mohammed Nashashibi "They came here, with the horse, and with the stick they are beating me because I am demonstrating peacefully against a criminal act of Netanyahu."

Jerusalem Police Commander Ariyeh Amit defended the police tactics. "There is no question of a peace demonstration because this was not the intention of those who came here and we shall take all the measures to bring peace back to the streets. We cannot let any demonstration happen in Jerusalem without license of the police."

In another confrontation, Palestinian demonstrators formed a wedge and tried to break through Israeli police lines, in an effort to make a path to the Old City for Palestinian Council member Hanan Ashrawi. After a shoving match, the police allowed Ashrawi and a few associates to pass. She and other Palestinians are angry that Israel excavated an underground tunnel in the Old City, near Islam's third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa mosque, and ending on the Via Dolorosa, where Christians believe Jesus carried the cross.

"The protest in Jerusalem is basically to point out Israeli unilateral measures attempting to annex east Jerusalem, to change its character, to claim exclusive possession, to destroy Palestinian, Christian and Muslim sites, and to impose and create facts that would undermine the whole peace process."

Standing at the controversial new tunnel exit Wednesday, Jerusalem's mayor, Ehud Olmert, disputed the charge. "We don't have to re-enforce our control. We don't have to take control. We are in control. And we make no secrets of it. We never did. This is our city."

The mayor says the new tunnel opening will make it easier for tourists to visit the excavations adjacent to Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall, and will deliver large crowds to Arab-owned shops near the new tunnel exit. And he says the excavations are far from the Al-Aqsa mosque or any other Islamic sites.

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