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12 arrested at Orient House protest in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A second day of protest outside the Orient House in East Jerusalem ended in scuffles on Saturday between Palestinian demonstrators, their supporters and Israeli police.

Israeli police arrested 12 demonstrators and said one Israeli policeman was injured after Saturday's demonstration.

Israeli forces seized the Orient House, unofficial headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a potent symbol of the Palestinians' aspirations for an independent state, following the suicide bombing of a central Jerusalem pizzeria on Thursday. Sixteen people, including the bomber, died in the explosion.

Palestinian cabinet minister Hanan Ashrawi who led Saturday's march, demanded that Israel reopen the facility.

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Israelis block Palestinians from Orient House in wake of suicide bombing, CNN's Ben Wedeman reports (August 10)

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CNN's Mike Hanna reports on the psychological trauma that continuing violence is causing families in the Mideast (August 10)

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"We're here because we want to go to the Orient House," Ashrawi said. "We're here because this is our city. It's an occupied city, I know. They have arms, they have weapons, they have police, they have mortar guns, but it is Palestinian and it is under occupation."

"We want to go, move freely and go to the Orient House, which has been occupied by the Israeli army and this is unacceptable," she added.

Israel took swift action after the suicide bombing, taking control Friday of nine other Palestinian buildings and the Palestinian military and political headquarters at Abu Dis just outside Jerusalem along with the Orient House. An Israeli missile strike also leveled the Palestinian Authority's West Bank police headquarters.

The Israeli government holds the Palestinian leadership responsible for continued violence in the region, and responds to acts like the suicide bombing by targeting Palestinian Authority facilities.

"The escalation that has occurred is because (Palestinian Authority President Yasser) Arafat gave a green light to a variety of Palestinian organizations ... to attack Israeli targets," said Dore Gold, an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Islamic coalition calls for strike

Arafat, however, has said he cannot control Palestinian organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which say they are fighting against Israel's continued presence in Palestinian territories.

Initially, both the militant wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic Jihad withdrew its claim. Hamas released a picture of the man it identifed as the suicide bomber, Izzedine Shuhin al-Masri, 23, from the Palestinian town of Jenin on the West Bank.

The National Islamic Coalition has called a general strike for Monday to protest Orient House's closing. Several Arab nations and newspapers have condemned its closure.

Some Israelis joined the chorus of Arab voices protesting the Israeli action.

"The terrorist attack (suicide bombing) was crazy and cruel," said former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin. "The retaliation was perhaps natural, but totally unneeded, and did not contribute anything to calming down the situation."

Beilin called for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Arafat "to talk seriously about implementation of the Mitchell Report." The report, named after former United States Sen. George Mitchell, who headed a commission that studied peace efforts in the region, called for an end to the violence leading up to talks on a comprehensive peace.

Sharon has said he will not negotiate until the violence has completely stopped, while Arafat contends the violence will not stop until there is a negotiated peace.



 
 
 
 


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