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Palestinians, Arab world mark two-year-old revolt
( 2002-09-28 15:22 ) (7 )

Thousands of protesters, some clad in suicide bomber costumes, marched in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Arab world Friday to mark the second anniversary of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

The demonstrations were held amid seething anger over an Israeli air strike in Gaza City that wounded a number of civilians and drew a rare U.S. censure but failed to kill a Hamas militant at the top of Israel's wanted list.

The militant Islamic group Hamas vowed more bombings, raising the specter of a sharp rise in violence at a time when Washington wants to keep a lid on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ahead of a possible U.S. military assault on Iraq.

Matan Vilnai, a member of Israel's security cabinet, confirmed Palestinian reports that the target of the Gaza attack -- Hamas commander Mohammed Deif -- was injured but alive after missiles blew up his car on a crowded street Thursday.

Two other members of Hamas, which has carried out a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, were killed and 27 people were hurt.

The United States, Israel's chief ally and biggest donor, criticized Israel's attempt to kill Deif.

"Anyone responsible for terror and violence needs to be brought to justice, but operations such as those conducted in Gaza endanger civilian lives, inflame tensions and hinder our efforts for peace," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.

About 12,000 Palestinians, many screaming for revenge, marched in funeral processions in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians and their Arab brethren elsewhere in the Middle East took to the streets to mark the anniversary of a revolt in which at least 1,570 Palestinians and 601 Israelis have died.

In several West Bank cities reoccupied by Israeli forces in June following a spate of suicide bombings, crowds defied military curfews and in a few places clashed with army patrols.


Tens of thousands of people, some chanting "death to Israel, death to America," marched through Beirut in a rally organized by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah.

Some dressed up as suicide bombers in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, strapping on mock explosives.

There were similar scenes of protest in Cairo, where thousands rallied against pro-Israeli U.S. "bias."

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, 300 people marched toward Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's headquarters as they have nightly since Israel imposed a siege eight days ago after suicide bombings killed seven people in Israel. Israeli forces fired tear gas to turn the marchers back.

In the Tulkarm refugee camp, troops fired live rounds to disperse a 1,500-strong demonstration when youths threw stones, and witnesses said a militant was badly hurt in a confrontation with Israeli tanks in the West Bank town of Jenin, witnesses said.

Palestinians say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then an opposition leader, sparked the uprising with a visit on September 28, 2000, to a holy site in Jerusalem.

Israel traces the start of the revolt to Palestinian attacks on soldiers in late September 2000. They say Arafat and his associates organized the violence to seek concessions they could not win in peace talks that broke down shortly before that.

All mediation efforts since have failed and Israel has raised the stakes by besieging Arafat, defying U.S. pressure.

But Israeli diplomatic sources said Sharon had dispatched one of his senior aides, Dov Weisglass, to Washington for meetings with U.S. officials aimed at ending the standoff.

Palestinian Authority sources said Palestinian officials had asked the U.N. Security Council to convene a session on implementing a resolution it passed earlier this week demanding that Israel to lift the siege.

Israel has refused unless the Palestinian leadership fulfils its requirement under the resolution to ensure that militants behind attacks on Israelis are brought to justice.

Israel has demanded the surrender of 50 wanted militants it says are holed up in the compound, but the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported it would agree under certain circumstances that the men be tried and jailed in Palestinian areas.



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