REUTERS – Jabalya, Gaza Strip – Palestinian stone throwers on Wednesday forced American officials to suspend an investigation of a bomb attack on a United States embassy convoy that killed three Americans in the Gaza Strip.
The investigators filmed the wreckage before being driven away by a hail of stones from youths from the Jabalya refugee camp, a Islamic militant stronghold. The youths shouted “Allah Akbar” (God is greatest).
Palestinian police officers at the scene fired into the air with automatic weapons to keep the youths from getting too close.
Israeli helicopters hovered as the US investigators arrived, and Israeli tanks located about half a kilometre from the scene of the bombing fired sporadically at the ground and into the air in an apparent attempt to secure the area.
Earlier reports by residents that Israeli tanks had arrived at the scene were incorrect. Soldiers fired from machine guns nearby earlier after an armoured jeep was damaged by a landmine. Three soldiers were slightly wounded in that attack.
In Ramallah, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, the first against Americans during a three-year-old uprising against Israel, as “an ugly crime” and said he had ordered an inquiry, according to the official news agency Wafa.
Both the Islamic Jihad and Hamas militant groups spearheading the revolt for independence, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) faction, denied involvement.
Hamas, which along with Islamic Jihad has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide-bombing campaigns during the uprising, similarly distanced itself from the attack.
“Hamas’ position is not to expand its struggle, and Hamas’ enemy is only the enemy of the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli occupation,” Adnan Asfour, a Hamas political leader in the West Bank, said.
Rabah Muhana, a senior member of the PFLP, an armed offshoot of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation, said it opposed attacks on Americans or other nationalities in principle.
“If we want to measure the attack based on the criteria of gain and loss, then it would be a wrongful act,” he said.
“But the unjust, unlimited and illogical American support for Israel has fuelled anti-American feelings throughout the world, including among the Palestinians.
“Therefore, the attack could fall into this category (of Palestinian anger). It could represent an angry act against US support for Israel.”
“We view it as inappropriate to target Europeans, Americans or any nationality other than the occupation forces,” senior Islamic Jihad official Nafez Azzam told Reuters, referring to Israel and its hold on the West Bank and Gaza.