Palestinian Peace Rallies Marked by Acceptance, Support and Violence With AM-Mideast Peace,
Palestinian Peace Rallies Marked by Acceptance, Support and Violence With AM-Mideast Peace, Bjt
JERICHO, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ Ax-wielding Muslim fundamentalists broke up a Gaza rally called to support the Israeli-Palestinian plan for self-rule in the occupied lands, injuring 20 people Wednesday.
Other rallies supporting, opposing and explaining the historic accord were held peacefully in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The demonstrations showed the sharp divisions among Palestinians over the plan, which some welcome as a first step toward a Palestinian state but others see as a grudging, dead-end Israeli concession to the Arabs. Israelis are also deeply split over the agreement.
In the Gaza Strip, about 200 activists from the Muslim fundamentalist group Hamas used knives, axes and clubs to break up a rally supporting the plan.
Shouting ″God is great 3/8″ and ″Betrayers and collaborators 3/8,″ the attackers wounded at least 20 people and destroyed cars parked in the area of the Al-Shatti refugee camp, Arab reporters said.
They said about 1,000 people had gathered to hear speeches backing the plan to implement autonomy first in Jericho and the Gaza Strip.
The fundamentalists tore up a Palestinian flag, ripped down banners and smashed the music equipment of a band singing Palestinian songs.
″Negotiators, stop the ... compromises. The trumpets of surrender must be silenced,″ read a Hamas leaflet distributed in Gaza. It said the group would continue its violent attacks on Israelis.
Fundamentalist groups seeking to destroy Israel are seen as the strongest threat to the plan for Palestinian self-rule, approved by Israel’s Cabinet Tuesday.
Hamas and other Islamic activists say Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat should be assassinated for betraying the Palestinian dream of regaining all the land of what is now Israel.
Arafat, speaking by telephone from Tunisia, told a rally of 3,000 people at An-Najah University in Nablus this was the moment to ″act with courage and take risks.″
Organizers unfurled a 30-foot red, green, black and white Palestinian flag, banned in the occupied territories.
In the West Bank city of Jericho, about 500 people packed a theater to hear about the agreement that would turn their town into the headquarters of the Palestinian governing authority.
″This paves the way for independence,″ said Azmi Shouabi, an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team. Jericho is an oasis town about 18 miles east of Jerusalem.
Aware of the opposition from dissident PLO factions and Muslim fundamentalists, local leader Fathi Barahmeh pleaded with Palestinians not to fight among themselves.
″We say no to civil war. You must not raise your knife and fight your brother,″ Barahmeh said.
No disturbances were reported from a gathering opposing the plan at Bir Zeit University in West Bank.
″We did not struggle all these years just to get autonomy on 500 square meters (yards) of Palestine,″ Ali Abu Hilal, a member of the Democratic Front faction of the PLO, told the rally.