(JERUSALEM POST) As Yasser Arafat’s successors took pains to stress their commitment to the peace process and a new era, representatives of various factions published a statement vowing to step up the fight against Israel.
Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups issued separate leaflets calling on the Palestinians to escalate the “struggle” against Israel in the post-Arafat era. “We must continue the fight in order to fulfill President Arafat’s dream,” read one of the leaflets.
Calls for continuing the intifada were heard in rallies across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets, mourning their leader and torching tires.
Security forces were instructed to exercise restraint, but in a number of cases were forced to use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the mobs, which threw stones, rocks, cement blocks, and in some cases bombs at troops.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged the new Palestinian leadership to fight terrorism, and added that Israel will continue in its efforts to reach a settlement with the Palestinians without delay.
Top Fatah operative Hussein al-Sheikh confirmed that the Palestinians were headed toward an escalation. “We will continue to believe the gun is the way to get rid of the occupation,” he said. “This is Abu Amar’s promise and this is his will and we will continue to be true to them.”