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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Eyewitness: Battle for Jerusalem
Palestinian stone-throwers carry a wounded comrade shot by an Israeli soldier in Bethlehem
The wounding and killing has continued all week
By Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem

At night from my flat I can hear huge thuds. The sound of heavy weapons being fired off. My flat is in central Jerusalem and the noises are not far off.

Palestinians hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers over burning tires in Hebron
Fighting it out on the streets of Hebron
In the mornings I wake up - to church bells and mist over the old city - then slowly the Israeli police and soldiers start moving into their positions for another day of fighting. They surround the old city and its holy sites.

In the West Bank they sit at tanks, in sniper positions and behind concrete barriers on the streets.

The Palestinians wake up - some groggy after the last day's rioting. They head in groups to the usual places, lighting tires on the streets as they go.

Orange flames light up the early dawn. Black smoke billows upwards. Cars weave through the narrow gaps between the burning piles of rubber. Even with all the windows shut you can feel the sudden burst of heat as you pass them.

The West Bank is on fire - so is the Gaza strip. People keep dying. Hundreds have been injured.

But this is not calming the mood - Palestinians have long been waiting for this fight. And the Israelis are trained to respond.

A father mourns

So the young men on both sides - conscript Israeli soldiers well armed with flak jackets - and Palestinians of the same age some bare-chested, most in t-shirts, meet at the barriers.

Israeli tank
Israel has the superior military might
They aim at each other - wild gunfights break out. They shoot and kill. These are people who on other days buy and sell from each other - they walk past each other on the streets, work for the same companies - in the same buildings.

One Palestinian man - in his 30s - got up caught up in the fighting at the weekend. I met him in hospital a few days later. He said he had been passing through an area of Gaza called Netzarim when the gunfire started.

The awful image of him and his son was captured on film. They crouched against a wall together - the father trying desperately to shelter his son from the hail of bullets - Muhammad the 12-year-old son wept with fear.

These were the last moments of his life. He was shot in the stomach and died in his father's arms.

Masked Palestinian gunman marches in the West Bank town of Hebron
Masked Palestinian gunmen are on the streets of Hebron
The father will live, but has eight bullet holes in his body. He told me this was cold-blooded murder. He said he could see the Israeli soldier who shot him. He told me they kept firing at him until they hit him.

The Israeli army admits it may have been them who fired the shots - but says if so, it was not deliberate.

That night in Gaza, Muhammad's coffin was lifted high above the heads of hundreds of Palestinians as it was marched through the streets. A man in front of his coffin shouted out calls for revolution against Israel.

If this isn't already a new Palestinian uprising - that's what it is turning into.

At the intensive care unit at Gaza's main hospital there were many injured in the face and neck. Several others in the room were children. The smell was grotesque - the injuries too awful to look at.

Is there so much hatred that it has come to this? The truth, I believe, is that this is not hatred - it is ignorance and fear.

Fear and anger

Israelis do not ask how many Palestinians died in the days' clashes - the huge numbers come only at the end of the Israeli radio reports, where one injured Israeli is mentioned as a headline. Arab lives to Jews do not seem to be as important - likewise Jewish lives are cheap to Palestinians at the frontline - who are just as ready to kill.


Palestinians are fed up with the peace process - it is not making their lives better

The Israeli army's response has been fierce. But fear is the fuel for this. Israelis see all of their soldiers' activities as self-defence - the riots are, after all, started every day by the Palestinians. To the whole country this is a battle for security and survival.

I believe that if ordinary Israelis sat at the frontline for one day and watched the Palestinians drop like flies when helicopter gunships fire from the air - they might not be surprised at the extent of Palestinian anger.

But here, as in most conflicts, people would rather laud their soldiers as heroes than worry about the other side.

Palestinians too are fighting because they are afraid - afraid and angry. They do not want to stay poor - and oppressed. The Israelis are living on land they see as theirs - the refugees live in hovels. And to add insult to injury, Israeli police last week fired shots at their people during prayers at the holy sites.

Palestinians are fed up with the peace process. It is not making their lives better. And like anyone anywhere in the world, Palestinians want land, dignity and freedom.

These are noble things to fight for. And both sides are fighting for them.

The Palestinians and Israelis are trapped in history - living side by side - unable to live together, but each side with nowhere else to go. They are fighting it out to see who gets what share of the pie - fighting for shares that they can both live with.

What has happened this week is a tragedy - because after this a compromise will be much, much harder to reach.

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See also:

05 Oct 00 | Middle East
Summit fails to end violence
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Tensions run high
04 Oct 00 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Anger and mourning in Gaza
03 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israel 'sorry' for killing boy
02 Oct 00 | Media reports
Israel apportions blame
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