Violence Increases As Israeli-PA Ceasefire Deadline Passes
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - On a day a ceasefire was supposed to take effect, the disputed West Bank and Jerusalem were anything but quiet. Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted Friday and casualties escalated as Arab gunmen and rock-throwers attacked Israeli checkpoints.
President Clinton read a statement earlier this week in which he said the two sides had agreed to take steps to implement a ceasefire agreement. It was estimated that the agreement should have gone into effect by midday Friday.
However, seven Palestinians, two of them teenagers, were killed and many others wounded in clashes. Six Israeli soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, when they mistakenly drove into a PA-controlled city of Tulkarm.
According to the Israeli army, an Israeli commander immediately notified the PA of the mistake, but when the bus carrying the soldiers reached a PA checkpoint, police opened fire.
In Jerusalem, the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo came under fire for the third time in recent weeks, and one Israeli was lightly wounded.
Israeli police prohibited Muslims under the age of 40 from entering the Temple Mount for Friday prayers. Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated outside the walls of the Old City and vowed to "fight to defend Jerusalem."
Mahmoud Hussein, the preacher at the Al-Aqsa mosque, told worshipers in his morning sermon that the souls of those killed three weeks ago in clashes at the holy site were hovering over the mosque. He called on others to join them.
Egyptians also called for a holy war against Israel after Friday prayers in a Cairo mosque.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due to host the largest summit of Arab leaders in four years in Cairo on Saturday.
The leaders hope to form a united front against what they consider Israeli violation of agreements with the PA and the excessive use of force in dealing with rioters over the past three weeks.