Jordanian Police Disperse Marchers at Entry to Israel
Jordanian riot police today forcibly dispersed thousands of stone-throwing pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach a bridge that leads to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Witnesses said about 60 policemen fired tear gas and shot into the air to halt about 7,000 young demonstrators, some masked, who broke away from the scheduled route of a march organized to uphold the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland.
Police, with 100 troops backed by two tanks, fought running battles with the protesters for two hours in Jordan’s worst violence since price riots 13 months ago killed 12 people.
The demonstrators came within one mile of the King Hussein Bridge, known in Israel as the Allenby Bridge, in the Jordan Valley opposite the Israeli-held town of Jericho.
Police said ambulances ferried 53 people to hospitals, most suffering from tear gas inhalation and exhaustion. All except one man with a heart complaint were later discharged.
Three policemen were among those hurt, one with a broken arm and one with a broken leg. Two people were stung by scorpions.
The mainstream PLO officially dissociated itself, but many young marchers sang the praises of its leader Yasser Arafat.
“Abu Ammar (Arafat), don’t frown, if you want us to become fedayin (guerrillas) we are ready!” they shouted.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which rejects the PLO’s peace strategy, boycotted the march, saying it was futile.
Police said about 10,000 people took part in the march, arranged by Jordanian professional associations to mark Tuesday’s anniversary of the creation of Israel in 1948.
They wanted to protest an influx of Soviet Jews to Israel, demand that dispossessed Palestinians be allowed to go home and show support for the 29-month-old Palestinian uprising in lands occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.
Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization fear a wave of Soviet Jewish migration will consolidate Israel’s grip on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and lead to mass expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan.
Organizers planned a silent March of Return, but emotion gripped the crowd when they saw the West Bank hills and many surged beyond the point where the procession was to have halted.