Har Homa protesters overrun shrine
Friday 21 March 1997
The riot started when 300 students from Bethlehem University held a march protesting at the construction of a Jewish township at Har Homa between Bethlehem and Jeru- salem. As they approached Rachel's Tomb, a heavily fortified Jewish shrine protected by Israeli troops, 40 Palestinian police tried to hold them back, but were overrun.
Sheltering behind a wall by a petrol station, the soldiers fired tear gas grenades, but appeared to be under orders not to fire live rounds. A few stones came skimming towards the troops and Palestinian boys raced forward to lob back the gas gren-ades. "Perfume from Beth- lehem," said an Israeli policeman as choking onlookers were enveloped by a cloud of gas.
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, appeared to be trying to prevent protests against Har Homa turning violent, fearing the Palestinians might forfeit international support. Nabi Amir, an adviser to Mr Arafat, said on the Voice of Palestine: "The fruits of world support arrive gradually. It is thanks to such support we have come this far."
But there is a diminishing basis for co-operation or negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. A proposal by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, whereby the present interim phase of the Oslo accords, intended to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, would be dropped and a final agreement reached by the end of the year, was dimissed by Palestinian leaders.
In Jerusalem another development is likely to deepen Palestinian suspicions. Over- night, apparently with the know- ledge of Mr Netanyahu, five families belonging to the extreme settler organisation, El Ad, moved into a large house formerly occupied by Palestinians in the Silwan district of Jeru- salem. This is one of the most heavily-contested areas of the city, as it is only 300 yards from al Aqsa mosque and occupies the site of ancient Jerusalem captured by King David. "The settlers came at 1pm. They have not said a word to us," said Mohammed Abu Diab, a Palestinian who lives next door to the building taken by El Ad. Several Israeli men inside the house said they were from a security firm and would not speak. Later, Yigaal Canaan, the leader of El Ad, said: "This whole hill is part of ancient Jerusalem and our organisation's goal is for the whole hill to become Jewish."
He is not far from his aim. House after house in Silwan is sprouting an Israeli flag. Under the Labour government between 1992 and 1996, no Palestinian houses were taken over. Instead, El Ad and its sister organisation, Ateret Cohanim (Crown of the Priests), was the target of a government inquiry into how they had illegally received official funds to obtain Palestinian houses. But on the morning of Mr Netanyahu's election victory last May - even before it was confirmed - El Ad resumed its campaign.
The settlers have little sympathy for Palestinian occupants. Amir Ben David, 32, a settler born in the US, will move into a house above the biblical pool of Siloam, next week. He said: "There was a family here before, but the courts told them to leave. This is the City of David."
Mr Ben David does not think Jewish settlement should end with the City of David. "Those houses are built on the graves of Jews from the time of the Second Temple [destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC]."
The prime minister's office said that it had known of the take-over by settlers in Silwan, but had not initiated it. In practice, however, El Ad cannot act without coordination with the armed security guards paid for by the government.
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
- 4 The response to my Pizza Express review has been overwhelming, and taught me a lot about journalism
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Scottish independence: Despite defeat history may still point to Alex Salmond as the victor
Scottish independence referendum: Frankie Boyle reacts to nation's 'No' vote - 'To be fair, I've always hated Scotland'
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Scottish referendum: Police struggle to control Unionist rally in Glasgow's George Square
Glasgow 'riots': 'Dishonest' social media users accused of fuelling panic with pictures from London riots
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...
£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...