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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 14, 1997, Volume 5, Number 45

UN Condemns Israel

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted 130-2 against Israeli plans to build Jewish housing in east Jerusalem -- with the United States and Israel the only dissenting votes. The action came nearly one week after the United States vetoed a similar resolution in the UN Security Council. Describing Jewish settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace, the General Assembly called on Israel to
abandon its building project and refrain from all actions that might compromise negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem.

Israel Teenage Girls Slaughtered at "Peace Island"

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A Jordanian soldier killed seven Israeli schoolgirls Thursday and wounded several more people, including a teacher, when he opened fire with an automatic weapon at a school group. The students and their teachers had stopped along a main Israeli road, just south of the Sea of Galilee, to visit a small slice of Jordanian territory, which under the 1994 peace treaty is open to Israeli civilians.

The students, all about 13 years old, and their teachers were from a girls' school in central Israel. One of the teachers, Rosa Chemy, told Israel Radio it was like a nightmare. She said the group was listening to an explanation of the site, when a Jordanian soldier opened fire from a guard tower. She says the girls tried to take cover, and the soldier came down and ran toward them, but was stopped by other Jordanian soldiers when he was trying to put a fresh ammunition clip in his gun.

A young man from a nearby town, Erad Hess, was in another part of the site. "At one point I heard shooting start, and ran toward the Israeli group. "They were just screaming. And I could see him getting to them real close and shooting one girl in the head."

Both Israeli witnesses say the other Jordanian soldiers did not move fast enough or decisively enough to stop the attacker, and then prevented the teachers from approaching some of the wounded girls. Some of the dead and injured were tended to by the soldiers and were taken to a Jordanian hospital. Others were taken back into Israel.

The reasons for this attack are not known, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed it on people who condone violence as a method for dealing with disputes in the Middle East. "Any kind of violence -- violence that is done officially, violence that is purveyed unofficially, violence by individuals, violence by groups -- simply has to be rejected, resoundingly rejected and acted against. There is no greater danger to the peace process."

King Hussein cut short a visit to Spain, and postponed a trip to the United States, in order to return home. A spokesman described the king as having feelings of "shock, pain, and anger" about the attack. The king phoned his condolences to Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

Hussein's brother, Prince Hassan, spoke for Jordan at the scene of the attack. "I want to say today is a black day in the history of our country. I want to emphasize that justice will be served. What can I say other than a sense of deep embarrassment and human anguish and my condolences to the families of the bereaved."

Thursday's shooting happened on a small slice of Jordanian territory, along the Jordan-Israel border, known as "Peace Island." The area, between two streams of the Jordan River, is owned by Jews but, under the 1994 peace treaty, is recognized to be part of Jordan.

Israeli tourists routinely visit with a minimum of formalities, guarded by Jordanian troops and exchanging friendly greetings with them. It has been an example of the success of the Israel-Jordan peace agreement, but on Thursday some Israeli witnesses accused the Jordanian soldiers on the scene of adding to the tragedy by not abiding by the peace accord at a crucial moment.

They say Jordanian soldiers prevented Israeli police and ambulances from crossing into the area. Witnesses say it took the Israeli rescue teams at least 20 minutes to arrive on the scene, but they also worry that some of the girls might have died waiting for Jordanian ambulances while the Israelis stood nearby, unable to help. The peace treaty says Israeli police should be allowed to enter the "Peace Island" area in such circumstances.

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