PALESTINIAN protesters scuffle with Israeli police outside PLO headquarters

Saturday, August 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Palestinian legislators and other protesters marched toward the PLO headquarters in Jerusalem on Saturday, a day after Israel took over the compound, but were pushed back by Israeli police as scuffles and shouting erupted.

Police wrestled several demonstrators to the ground and took some away in headlocks. Some Palestinians threw stones at Orthodox Jews after one of the Jews sprayed mace at a Palestinian. One policeman with a bloodied face was taken away in an ambulance.

Elsewhere, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with foreign envoys in the West Bank town of Ramallah and asked for international intervention in the conflict with Israel.

U.S. and Russian envoys, speaking in Damascus and Ramallah respectively, condemned Israel's takeover of the PLO headquarters, which came in response to a suicide bombing that killed 15 people, including the assailant, this week in Jerusalem.

In the Gaza Strip, two Palestinians died Saturday of gunshot wounds sustained a day earlier in a clash with Israeli soldiers. The two had been among a group of Palestinians throwing stones at soldiers at the Karni crossing point. In all, six Palestinians were wounded in the clash, and one remained in critical condition.

More than 560 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and more than 150 on the Israeli side since hostilities broke out in September.

Israel's takeover of the PLO headquarters, known as the Orient House, constituted its most direct challenge to Palestinian political aspirations in the city.

The Palestinians want to establish a capital in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, and they see the Orient House as the core of a future government complex.

In peace talks that broke down earlier this year, Israel's previous government, led by Ehud Barak, had offered the Palestinians a measure of control in east Jerusalem. However, the Palestinians said the offer did not go far enough.

The current government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says it will never relinquish control over any area of Jerusalem.

Speaking in Damascus, Syria, U.S. envoy David Satterfield said the takeover of Orient House represented a ``political escalation.''

His Russian counterpart, Andrei Vdovin, speaking after a meeting with Arafat in Ramallah, that it was a violation of earlier peace accords ``and complicates the situation more and more.''

On Saturday, a dozen Palestinian officials, including Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi and Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament, marched toward the Orient House. They were pushed back by Israeli police who blocked access roads to the building with barricades.

A shouting match ensued at one of the barricades, and officers shoved Ashrawi and the others.

Ashrawi, short of breath after the scuffle, said Palestinians would protest outside the Orient House every day. ``This is our city ... and the Orient House is our house,'' she said.

Later, more protesters arrived, including activists from the United States and Europe. Police tore up signs and shoved the demonstrators down the street. Twelve demonstrators were arrested, including several foreigners, police said.

Palestinian officials said the takeover of the Orient House violated previous Israeli assurances that Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem would not be harmed.

Israeli officials said the government was no longer bound by those promises because the Orient House was not being used for its original purpose of directing cultural activities and providing social services for Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Israeli Public Security Minister Uzi Landau alleged that Palestinian security forces were using the Orient House and other institutions to plot attacks on Israelis.

The raid was also meant to cement Israeli claims to the city, Landau said.

``We will take every necessary action to keep the PLO out of Jerusalem,'' he said. ``Jerusalem is an Israeli city.''