U.N. Protests Rise In Palestinian Casualties
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A U.N. relief agency protested today to the Israeli army about the sharp rise in the number of Palestinian casualties since July in the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, a 19-year-old Arab protester died after he was shot in the mouth and at least 34 others were wounded today as violence swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.
The clashes came as Palestinians staged a general strike in the territories to protest the jailing of thousands of Arab activists by Israel. Militants hoisted white sheets sprayed with red swastikas and scrawled anti-Israeli grafitti on walls.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, said the number of Palestinians shot by army gunfire in the Gaza Strip jumped from 19 in July to 130 so far this month. The count did not include today’s casualty toll. Figures for the West Bank still are being compiled.
″There is a clear trend of a growing use of live ammunition that cannot be justified,″ said a senior U.N. official. ″Our concern is very real. This is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a bad day.″
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, linked the increase in casualties to the introduction in August of plastic bullets that penetrate the body like live ammunition, but generally are not fatal unless fired from less than 20 yards.
The introduction of plastic bullets lowered the threshold for opening fire. While troops are allowed to use live ammunition only in life-threatening situations, they can now fire plastic bullets to disperse stone-throwers.
In violent clashes in the Arab village of Jabal Mukaber straddling Jerusalem’s city limits, riot police fatally shot 19-year-old Jamal Mattar in the mouth during a stone-throwing protest, officials at Jerusalem’s Mukassed Hospital said.
An Israeli photographer said about 20 stone-throwers faced off with riot police, with the two groups standing on opposing hills. Police fired tear gas and then live ammunition, the photographer said.
Mattar’s death brought to 272 the number of Palestinians killed since the uprising began Dec. 8. Six Israelis have died during the same period.
Widespread clashes spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 34 Palestinians were wounded, including 26 in the Gaza Strip and eight in the West Bank, hospital officials said.
Among the wounded was an 11-year-old deaf boy from Gaza City who was in serious condition with a bullet wound in the chest, the officials said.
The army confirmed three wounded and said it was checking the other casualty reports.
On Sunday, Jewish settlers tried to mark a festival celebrating the Jews’ biblical wanderings by settling a patch of land in the West Bank, but Israeli troops thwarted the attempt.
The settlers were marking the beginning of the weeklong celebration of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which marks the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. Jews traditionally build makeshift huts on Sukkot to symbolize life in the wilderness.
Moshe Neuman, a spokesman for the settlers’ group, said 12 families and 20 single people pitched tents northwest of the Arab town of Jericho, about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem.
″They went to the site in the morning and set up there with tents, equipment and everything needed,″ Neuman said. He said the families had been promised more than a year ago that a settlement would be approved.
The families ″were evacuated peacefully,″ Neuman said.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin had warned that attempts by settlers to set up new colonies during Sukkot would be resisted by the government.
About 120 Jewish settlements have been established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since Israel occupied the lands in the 1967 Middle East war. The independent Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs says about 72,000 people live in the settlements, surrounded by 1.5 million Palestinians.