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Bush’s Riot Statement Angers Israeli Officials

From Times Wire Services

Israel reacted angrily today to U.S. criticism over the latest riots in the occupied territories, indirectly accusing Washington of encouraging continuation of the violence.

President Bush on Tuesday linked the latest wave of violence in which at least 22 people have been killed to the absence of progress toward Middle East peace, implicitly blaming Israel.

In an official statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said: “Linking the violence to the peace process is liable to be seen by certain groups as a reason to continue the violence in the hope of attaining their ends.”

Middle East peace efforts have been frozen since Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in March refused to accept U.S. proposals for the first-ever Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.

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The Foreign Ministry accused the PLO of “seeking to cynically exploit the tragedy at Rishon le Zion,” where a lone Israeli gunman shot and killed seven Palestinian workers last Sunday, sparking the most widespread violence in the occupied territories for two years.

In a blunt response to U.S. calls for Israel to restrain its soldiers, who shot dead 13 of the 22 people and wounded at least 850, the statement said: “Israeli forces are dealing with an extremely difficult situation and are exercising maximal restraint.”

It added: “There is no connection between the act of one crazed individual and the peace process.

“The major obstacle to the advancement of the peace process in the Middle East is the refusal of Arab states to accept Israel, recognize its right to exist and enter into direct negotiations with Israel.”

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Israeli troops today enforced curfews in the occupied lands, confining 1.5 million people to their homes, and Palestinians observed a general strike to protest Sunday’s killings.

Hundreds of police reinforcements poured into Jerusalem to prevent unrest as Israel marked the 23rd anniversary of the capture of the Old City and surrounding Arab east Jerusalem from Jordan.


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