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Palestinians OK force against Israelis

Palestinian Authority officials have authorized their police officers
to use firearms against Israeli troops “for self-defense” and to protect
Palestinian citizens if they come under attack from Israel Defense Force
soldiers.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the PA authorized the new policy
following Israel’s helicopter gunship attack against Palestinian
security offices in Gaza on Monday.

Israeli military forces acted in retaliation against a Palestinian
attack against an Israeli school bus earlier Monday morning.

In that attack, three Palestinians who were hiding in bushes along a
road near a Jewish community in Gaza set off an explosion that riddled
the armor-plated bus, killing two adults and injuring nine others,
including five children.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had vowed to begin
retaliatory operations against Palestinian security forces and other
officials of the military Fatah faction — which is loyal to Arafat —
for any attacks against Israeli citizens.

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, secretary-general of the Palestinian Authority,
told a news conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday that the decision had
been made to authorize PA police officers to “use guns to protect
demonstrators who come under Israeli army fire in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip,” the Post said.

He blamed Israel for shooting “the peace process in the heart” after
Monday’s missile assault, and he accused the Barak government of
attempting to “destroy the Palestinian Authority and [the] Fatah
[movement].

“Our policemen will now use their guns in self-defense in areas under
our full sovereignty. They have the right to respond,” Abdel-Rahman
said.

At the same time, other Fatah leaders said they had orders to begin
attacking Israeli troops and Jewish settlers in Palestinian areas in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Arafat surveyed the damage late Monday, officials said, and visited
some of the 60-odd people who were wounded. Two Palestinian policemen
also died in the raid.

Meanwhile, officials in the U.S. issued their harshest criticism yet
of Israel’s use of force, saying it would lead nowhere and that the
peace process would be permanently damaged if retaliatory attacks
continued.

“The Israelis also need to understand that the excessive use of force
is not the right way to go,” said a State Department press release on
Tuesday, issued in the wake of Israel’s PA security complex attack.

However, the State Department also described as “heinous” the
Palestinian attack against the Israeli school bus, and called on the
Palestinian Authority to likewise condemn it.

“Both sides need to exercise restraint and responsibility under the
Sharm el-Sheik agreement,” said State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher, referring to a truce agreed to by Arafat and Barak last month.

Yesterday, Palestinian attackers struck back against the Jewish state
by detonating a car bomb during rush hour near a busy bus station in the
Jewish community of Hadera.

The bomb wounded about 45 people and killed two others, Israeli
security officials said. The bomb was so powerful nearby stores caught
fire after the explosion.

Barak immediately condemned the attack and vowed that Israel would
“get even.”

Labeling the bombing “barbaric,” Barak said in a statement, “Israel
will get even with those who carried out the attack, and their
messengers.”

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