Israeli Troops Fire on Protesters, Kill One On Massacre Anniversary
HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian youths stoned Israeli troops today on the anniversary of the Hebron mosque massacre. The troops fired back, killing one protester and wounding four in a refugee camp outside the city.
In Hebron, 300 Palestinians attended a special prayer service at the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Muslim worshipers last year.
``I’m calling on our people to defend the holy shrines,″ Sheik Taysir Tamimi, a leader of the Muslim militant group Hamas, told worshipers. ``We don’t accept it that Jews share our mosque.″
The Tomb, built over the graves of biblical patriarchs Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Since the Feb. 25 massacre, Muslims and Jews have been entering through separate gates and pray in different halls.
The army deployed reinforcements and set up roadblocks throughout Hebron today, turning away Palestinians from nearby villages.
Israeli security forces have been on high alert after receiving warnings that Palestinian militants planned revenge attacks against Israelis during the anniversary, which was marked today according to the Muslim calendar.
Hamas has carried out four revenge attacks over the past year that killed 38 Israelis. Hamas has vowed in leaflets to carry out a total of five attacks.
The worst clashes took place today in the Al-Fawar refugee camp south of Hebron.
A 16-year-old stone thrower was critically wounded this morning by army gunfire. Dozens more then took to the streets and stoned soldiers who opened fire, killing 16-year-old Sami Najar and wounding three others, according to hospital officials and witnesses in the camp.
The army confirmed the clashes, but said it had no word on casualties.
Some 150 soldiers ringed the Tomb today, and worshipers had to pass through seven army checkpoints to reach the shrine.
Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natche, standing in front of the Tomb, said there would only be peace if Israel pulled the 450 Jewish settlers out of the Palestinian town of 80,000 people.
``We expect (more) massacres because the settlers in this town are extremists and they consider Goldstein a hero,″ Natche said.
Goldstein was a doctor in the neighboring Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, which is planning a graveside memorial service for the gunman on Thursday. Goldstein, who was bludgeoned to death after opening fire in the mosque, is revered as a saint by many in Kiryat Arba, a settlement of 6,000 people.
Israel radio said settlers were seen moving through Hebron putting up wall posters announcing the memorial services.
The Jewish section of the Tomb was open today, and several dozen worshipers arrived for prayers.
Throughout Hebron, merchants closed their shops, complying with a strike call issued by the mayor.
Near the Tomb, several dozen Palestinian youths stoned soldiers who shot in the air and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Eight Palestinians were arrested, lined up against a wall and then driven away in an army jeep.
Outside the Hussein Ibn Ali high school, dozens of students burned tires on the streets and erected stone roadblocks.
Since the massacre, the army has turned Hebron into a fortress, closing off parts of town to Palestinians to prevent frictions with Jewish settlers.
Hebron resident Awani Natche, who lost two cousins in the massacre, said the town residents have been made to pay a heavy price for the massacre.
``I don’t feel as though I’m living in a land of peace, but in a huge jail,″ Natche told Israel army radio.