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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Thousands attend Mustafa funeral
Armed PFLP supporter in a red mask at the funeral of Abu  Ali Mustafa
Some PFLP supporters wore masks for the funeral
The funeral of the highest ranking Palestinian to be killed by Israel in more than a decade has taken place in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Abu Ali Mustafa
Mustafa: We returned in order to resist
Thousands of Palestinians waving flags and chanting anti-Israel slogans turned out for the funeral of Abu Ali Mustafa, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - a faction of the PLO.

PFLP members paraded in red masks, representing the faction's flag, many firing weapons into the air and chanting calls for revenge.

Israel meanwhile announced that forces occupying the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, near Jerusalem, would stay indefinitely, and imposed a curfew.

Calls for revenge

Mustafa was killed on Monday when a helicopter gunship fired rockets into his office in Ramallah.

Many senior Palestinian figures turned out to pay their respects at his funeral.

His flower-covered coffin was carried through the streets of Ramallah in a military-style procession, while a brass band played sombre music.

Thousands of mourners attending the funeral of Ali Abu Mustafa
More than 20,000 mourners accompanied the procession
The walls of the city's shops were sprayed with a slogan Mustafa coined, "We returned in order to resist."

A crowd of more than 20,000 Palestinians chanted "Retaliation is on its way," and "Expect suicide bombings and more bullets."

In a demonstration in Gaza, PLO official Zakaria al-Agha, told thousands of mourners: "The assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa opened the doors to hell, which will burn the Israelis first."

Beit Jala

The decision to keep tanks and troops in Beit Jala appears to mark a change of tactics for Israel, which has not previously occupied Palestinian-controlled areas for more than a few hours.


"Beit Jala has become a sniper's nest. Our forces have entered in order to clean it up

Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner
The move into Beit Jala came after Palestinians there fired at the neighbouring settlement of Gilo, which Israel considers a neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

In the wake of Mustafa's killing, Gilo came under the heaviest fire since the Palestinian uprising began 11 months ago.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem said there was a sense of shock among Palestinians that such a senior political figure had been targeted.

"Beit Jala has become a sniper's nest. Our forces have entered in order to clean it up," Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said.


He said Israeli troops would stay "as long as it is needed" to restore Israeli security.

Israel Radio reported that troops took up positions in at least five houses in the town.

A Palestinian policeman, Mohammed Sammour, 25, was killed in fighting during the incursion and about 10 other people were wounded, one seriously.

The army also sent bulldozers, armoured vehicles and tanks into the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.

Before pulling out again, it demolished at least 10 buildings it said were being used by Palestinian snipers and arms smugglers.

Condemnation

The assassination of Mustafa was condemned by Iran, Jordan and the Secretary General of the Arab League, while Mr Arafat declared three days of mourning.

The United States condemned the killing in what observers called unusually strong terms.

Israeli tanks enter Beit Jala
The Israelis say they will remain in Beit Jala until Palestinian shooting stops
"If the situation on the ground is to improve, then Israel must also take the economic and security steps that are necessary to alleviate the pressure, the hardship and the humiliations of the Palestinian population," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

The British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw described Israel's recent incursion into Beit Jala as "excessive and disproportionate."

"The use of fighter aircraft in residential areas, the destruction of Palestinian Authority security buildings by missiles and assassinations of Palestinians can form no part of a meaningful strategy aimed at achieving peace," he said.

Israel's recent escalation was also criticised by Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Revenge threats

Several Palestinian groups threatened revenge, and within hours, a Jewish settler was shot dead in a roadside ambush in the northern West Bank in what the PFLP said was a reprisal.

Israel said Mustafa was a legitimate target because he had been planning car bomb attacks.

Israel has a policy of killing Palestinians it believes are involved in the planning or implementation of attacks on Israel, which it calls "active defence" or "targeted killings".

Palestinians say more than 60 people have been killed in such attacks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"There's been a serious escalation in this conflict over the past two days"
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Oded Eran
"We have shown restraint, we have shown patience"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"Response has to be proportionate and lawful"
See also:

28 Aug 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Mustafa funeral
28 Aug 01 | Middle East
Palestinian shock turns to outrage
28 Aug 01 | Media reports
Mid-East press condemns Mustafa killing
27 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel kills key Palestinian leader
27 Aug 01 | Middle East
Abu Ali Mustafa: 'Right to struggle'
08 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian hardliners elect new head
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