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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Palestinian shock turns to outrage
Protest in Gaza City
Many young Palestinians vow to continue the intifadah
Israel's assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa looks certain to further radicalise Palestinians. Jerusalem correspondent Barbara Plett hears the views from both sides.

The group of young people sitting on the step turned away as I approached.

"I am sorry," said one young woman with red eyes. "I can't talk right now, I am too upset."


Because they attack us by force we should also attack them by force. Force against force, we will fight them until we die.

A young Palestinian
Others quietly expressed their condolences to the family of Abu Ali Mustafa, one of the most prominent leaders of the Palestinian struggle for independence.

He was killed by an Israeli rocket while sitting in his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

There was also outrage.

"This is a dangerous phenomenon, to start to assassinate political leaders," said mourner Emin Amouri.

"He is not even a military leader, he is a political leader, so this means they are assassinating the Palestinian voice."

Palestinians believe the attack marks a new stage in Israel's controversial assassination policy.

Until now the Israelis have targeted activists they say are planning attacks.

An armed member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Palestinian anger may turn to violence
Abu Ali was in a different league, one of the most senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

His death will almost certainly help to radicalise an increasingly militant population.

"Because they attack us by force we should also attack them by force," said one young man. "Force against force, we will fight them until we die."

As Palestinians of all political persuasions face what they see as a growing Israeli threat, the lines between factions are beginning to blur.

'Legitimate target'

"I think what is happening is consolidating the unity of the Palestinians," said Palestinian analyst Mustafa Barghouti.

"I have never in my life seen the Palestinian people so determined to end the occupation.

"Israel is giving us one message, it is either death or freedom, and we will struggle for freedom."

Israel makes no apologies. It insists that Abu Ali was a legitimate target.

Several years ago it gave the veteran rebel permission to return to the West Bank after he abandoned a long history of armed struggle.


I believe that if the government decided this one should be killed then it is the right thing to do

Israeli student
But the military says he returned to his old ways after the intifada started.

It says that his faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was responsible for shootings and car bombs.

Israelis traumatised by suicide attacks do not question the official version.

"I believe that if the government decided this one should be killed then it is the right thing to do," said student Elad Salman.

"I trust the prime minister and the government and the army."

Tour guide Mark Sugarman agreed. He said: "I am sure this man was responsible for terror acts against us, and being responsible he deserves what he got.

"I hope that nobody innocent was caught in the crossfire."

Fear of reprisals

Israeli generals acknowledge the threat of revenge attacks.

But, they argue, if Israel does not hit first the militants would strike anyway, so pre-emptive action does reduce the overall number of Palestinian operations.

Some analysts say, though, that this policy is in danger of getting out of hand.

Israeli analyst Danny Ben Simon said: "[Ariel] Sharon is the first prime minister who is using the military machine to kill political leaders.

"Even Menachim Begin or Yitzhak Shamir from the Likud [Party] used to exile them or to jail them but never to kill them.

"It is a new phenomenon, it will take time to see how effective it is."

See also:

27 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel kills key Palestinian leader
08 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian hardliners elect new head
28 Apr 00 | Middle East
Palestinian leader resigns
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