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Ben Wedeman: 'Great upsurge' in West Bank violence

Ben Wedeman  

CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman has been in the streets of the West Bank, where Palestinian-Israeli clashes have intensified in recent days.

Q: How has the atmosphere on the West Bank changed in recent days since Palestinian-Israeli fighting intensified?

WEDEMAN: The atmosphere here on the West Bank seems to be deteriorating dramatically. This comes after a week in this area when there has been a great upsurge in violence that's relative to the last couple weeks or even months, where there's been a steady number of incidents.

What has happened is that after the three bombings in Israel and the Israeli actions afterward in which they hit targets in Hebron, Gaza and Ramallah, in addition to the fact that it is Land Day, which marks the day in 1976 when six Israeli Arabs were killed, what has happened is, the level of tension has really skyrocketed.

It has been made worse by the fact that U.S. President George W. Bush's remarks the other night in which he placed a good deal of the blame for violence on the Palestinians. There seems to be the general, rapid deterioration of the security situation. The Palestinians feel the United States is no longer engaged in what once was a peace process. They feel that the United States is now closer to the Israeli position, which of course holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the violence.


They (Palestinians) feel that in a sense they're on their own. They didn't get the sort of support they were hoping to hear out of the Arab (League) summit, which was held in Amman, Jordan, also this week on the 27th and the 28th. They feel that too much attention was given to Iraq and not enough attention to them.

So there's a good deal of desperation that the Palestinian question is being either neglected or ignored. Neglected by the United States and ignored by the Arabs. There's a tendency when that feeling becomes prevalent among Palestinians that what do they have left, if not to increase the intensity of their uprising?

And today we spoke with not only members of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement, but also others outside of it who believe at this point the Palestinians have no other option but to increase the intensity of their uprising. Certainly, they feel that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has no interest whatsoever in trying to understand their grievances.

So really the situation has gotten to a point where it seems that many involved in the conflict on both sides seem to think that a military course of action is the most likely.

Q: This is the first time you have returned to what is a virtual battle zone since you were shot and wounded by cross fire from an Israeli-Palestinian gunfight on October 31, 2000. How have you been dealing with your return to dangerous duty?

WEDEMAN: Well, I had a good deal of hesitation and trepidation about it. I've covered lots of clashes. I've been in lots of dangerous situations, but going back and having been through what I've been through, I was very hesitant. In a way I thought we needed to be there. It's a story that has to be covered, but I did not approach it with the same adrenaline rush that I used to feel in those situations and I'll be honest to say I was very careful.

I did not run up to the forward areas, I was always mindful of where I could take cover if things got out of control. And they did get out of control. There was seriously intense gunfire that broke out. We had a warning that it was going to happen, but for a good half-hour we were ducking behind a building and there was a lot of gunfire. So I approached it with a good caution and not too much enthusiasm.

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The Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Palestinian National Authority
Israel Defense Forces

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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