Today in the Gaza strip, dozens of Palestinian riot police armed with batons and shields fired tear gas at thousandsof people protesting the house arrest of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Police killed at least one Palestinian.
The protests are the first major sign of resistance to the crackdown launched by Palestinian security forces againstHamas and Islamic Jihad activists. Police have arrested more than180 people in the last three days, after a stringof suicide bombings inside Israel killed 25 people and wounded at least 200.Earlier this week Israel used US supplied jets and attack helicopters to launch military strikes against Palestiniansecurity force buildings throughout Gaza, killing at least two and wounding hundreds.
Palestinians say Israel is attacking the very institutions that are supposed to be rounding up those behind thesuicide bombings.
Israeli officials have dismissed the detentions of what they say are low level activists and have told Arafat he mustimmediately arrest leading militants or face a resumption of Israeli military attacks. The Bush Administration haspointedly refused to call for Israeli military restraint.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s response to the suicide bombings has raised concerns among Palestinians and Israelipeace advocates that his strategy is part of a long-term plan to go to war with Yasser Arafat, in the hope of finallysuppressing the Palestinians’ nationalist aspirations, as well as the armed groups fighting for them, throughmilitary might.
- Raphael Krafft, Correspondent for Free Speech Radio News in the Gaza Strip.