Palestinian council calls emergency session
Settlements, prisoner release spark weekend clashes
November 29, 1998
GAZA, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- The Palestinian Legislative Council has called for an emergency meeting on Monday, following a second day of disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Fresh clashes broke out Sunday over settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, just one day following demonstrations in the West Bank over the release of Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners.
In a further sign of tension, a West Bank meeting designed to set the course of future peace talks ended in a heated exchange Sunday over prisoners.
Sunday's trouble in the Gaza Strip began when Palestinian police blocked Israeli trucks taking construction materials to a site in the strip.
Brig. Gen. Saeb al-Ajez, Palestinian commander of national security in the north of the Gaza Strip, said Israel would violate peace accords with the Palestinian Authority by building more housing.
Israel insists nothing in the accords prevents it from expanding settlements.
Israeli authorities, calling the Palestinian action "too much," responded by barring Palestinian VIPs in Gaza from using a special passage to Israel.
"They will have to go through the workers' passage now," said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for Israel's coordinator in the West Bank and Gaza. "We will have to sit down with the Palestinian Authority in order to find a solution for the problem."
The VIPs refused to use the workers' passage.
Gaza settler leader Aharon Tsur said: "I know one thing. We are citizens of the state of Israel. Based on every law, we can expand our homes." He appealed to Israel's government and army to ensure that the trucks may pass.
Dror said it was not the first time the Palestinian Authority had stopped trucks or even arrested drivers. He said Israel had expanded settlements to accommodate natural growth since a 1993 breakthrough deal with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Legislative Council called the emergency session on Monday to discuss Jewish settlement activities.
Tension over settlements was also behind unrest in the West Bank Sunday.
About 200 angry Palestinians converged on a house in the village of Ein Yabroud to try to force out Jewish settlers living there. The settlers had reportedly taken over the house some two weeks ago.
Israeli police and soldiers arrived on the scene to try to keep the two groups apart. But some Palestinian demonstrators managed to scale the walls of the house and began to throw building materials and pipes from the balcony.
In response, Jewish settlers hurled rocks at the Palestinians to try to force them away from the building. The unrest lasted for a few hours before the police managed to disperse the demonstrators.
There were no reports of injuries, and no arrests were made.
In Jericho in the West Bank, Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour walked out of a meeting over future peace moves with Israeli negotiator Danny Naveh. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also was at the meeting.
"I stormed out of the meeting in anger over Israel's policy on settlements and prisoners which aims at destroying the accords," Asfour said.
"We informed the Americans of the situation and we demand a clear U.S. position on the issues of settlements and prisoners," he said.
On Saturday, violent clashes between Israeli authorities and Palestinian demonstrators broke out in Jerusalem and the West Bank towns of Hebron and Bethlehem, as Palestinians demanding the release of prisoners from Israeli jails held a series of demonstrations.
Under the Wye Memorandum signed between Israel and the Palestinians in October, Israel agreed to free 750 prisoners in three stages.
Palestinian officials say Israel has violated the spirit of the deal by releasing common criminals instead of political prisoners.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he never agreed to release Palestinians held on terrorism charges.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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