Saturday 30 September 2000

Seven killed during riot in Jerusalem

Palestinian leaders call for general strike after clashes on eve of Jewish New Year

September 30, 2000

By Matthew Kalman

JERUSALEM -- At least seven Palestinian demonstrators were killed and 220 Palestinians were injured when Israeli riot police stormed the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem yesterday, leading the Palestinian Authority to call for a general strike today.

Forty-four Israeli police officers, including the Jerusalem chief, were hit by stones in the worst bloodshed in four years at the walled compound that is at the centre of the deadlock in Mideast talks.

Thousands of Muslims barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque as sporadic stone-throwing and violence spread through East Jerusalem and the West Bank on the eve of the Jewish New Year.

The violence quickly spread to Jerusalem neighbourhoods and the West Bank, further dimming prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the situation was very serious and that Israel expected the Palestinian Authority and regional Muslim leadership, which supervises the Temple Mount, to restore calm. "Otherwise the Israeli police will have to get involved and act, even though we don't want to," Mr. Barak said.

Yesterday's disturbances began as thousands of Muslims leaving Friday prayers hurled bottles, masonry blocks and iron bars onto Jewish worshippers and police at the Western Wall 15 metres below. Israeli police struggled to clear the area by the wall, which was crowded with people offering prayers on the eve of the Jewish New Year, which began last night.

About 25 Israelis, including Jerusalem police Chief Yair Yitzhaki, were treated in hospital for head wounds after being hit from above.

The Muslim demonstrators then tried to break into the plaza around the Western Wall. Israeli riot police forced them back and tried to clear the Temple Mount compound. They opened fire on the demonstrators with rubber bullets, killing seven Palestinians and wounding more than 200 others, according to Palestinian medical officials.

The call for a general strike came from Palestinian information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo over the Voice of Palestine radio, which said only official bodies, such as ministries, would be exempt.

The Voice of Palestine Radio reported that seven of those injured had lost an eye.

There were further outbreaks of violence as the afternoon wore on.

In Jerusalem neighbourhoods close to Palestinian areas, youths threw stones at Israeli cars and set fire to an Israeli ambulance. In Bethlehem, demonstrators threw stones at Israeli soldiers and burned tires. In Nablus, Israeli security forces moved out a group of religious students.

"We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for today's massacre," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"On the instructions of President Arafat, we have asked the United States to intercede with Israel to stop this bloodshed."

Abu Ala, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told the Voice of Palestine: "The Israelis have gone mad. What happened today could destroy the Middle East peace process. Israeli extremists are trying to derail the process."

The clashes, the worst in Jerusalem for four years, came the day after violence broke out during a controversial tour of the Temple Mount by hawkish Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.

The Temple Mount is the key stumbling-block in peace talks that have dragged on between Israelis and Palestinians for more than seven years.

Each side wants control over the site, which Jews regard as the location of Solomon's Temple and Muslims believe is the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven.

The temple was destroyed by the Romans, and a mosque has stood on the site since the eighth century.

Earlier yesterday, a Palestinian police officer shot and killed an Israeli policeman during a joint Israeli-Palestinian security patrol in the West Bank town of Kalkilya.

Monday 4 September 2000

Hussein gravely ill with cancer: newspaper

Takes steps to pass control to youngest son

Monday, September 4, 2000

Special to The Globe and Mail

Jerusalem - Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is gravely ill with cancer of the lymph system and has set up a family council led by his youngest son to take control if the President were to become incapacitated, a leading Arabic newspaper reported yesterday.
Western newspapers have reported several times in recent years that the 63-year-old President has cancer, but the London-based Asharq al-Awsat went into considerable detail in its report.
The Saudi-financed publication quoted an Arab doctor "with an excellent reputation" as saying that a medical team of three French doctors, one German and one Swede is taking care of Mr. Hussein. The team had been brought together by a committee chaired by the President's personal secretary and confidant, Abed Hamoud, the daily said.
Western diplomats in the Middle East said they could not confirm the accuracy of the reports.
The death of Mr. Hussein could spark a succession crisis between his two sons, both of whom are known for their ruthless behaviour.
Mr. Hussein was last seen in public last month as he was driven through Baghdad in an open-air car with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
According to the unidentified Iraqi doctor who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mr. Hussein is suffering from pains in his hip and lungs and has problems breathing. His sight has also been affected and he suffers temporary memory losses and is unable to concentrate, the doctor said.
The doctor said that Mr. Hussein had so far refused to undergo chemotherapy treatment.
The paper also said the President recently led a family meeting attended by his secretary Mr. Hamoud; his two sons, Udai and Qusay; and his three brothers, Barazan, Watban and Sabawi. They appointed a family council led by Qusay to run the affairs of Iraq in the event the President were unable to fulfill his duties or were to die suddenly.
Last month, the Arab media reported that Qusay had effectively been appointed his father's deputy and second-in-command. The reports said Mr. Hussein was seeking to change the constitution so 34-year-old Qusay could become president if needed; the legal age now is 40.
Qusay is known as the ruthless commander of the Special Security Organization, a key branch of the Iraqi security apparatus. In 1997, Qusay reportedly ordered the execution of 1,500 political prisoners, according to a United Nations report. Iraq denied the report, which said relatives were even ordered to pay for the bullets used to kill the prisoners before being allowed to retrieve their bodies for burial.
His older brother, Uday, 36, was badly injured in an assassination attempt in 1996 and is only just able to walk without assistance. He is a notorious playboy who made headlines in 1998 for clubbing his father's food-taster to death. He was considered the favourite to succeed his father until the attack. He still controls the official Babel newspaper and could mount a strong challenge for the leadership of Iraq when his father dies.