Israel: December 7, 2000


Palestinian gunmen  continued to shoot at Israeli settlements, with the return fire creating lengthily fire fights.  Israel closed the Erez Economic Zone, which is adjacent to Gaza and employs 5,000 Palestinians. This strikes another blow to the Palestinian economy. Before the unrest, the Palestinian unemployment rate was some 11 percent. Now it is nearly 40 percent and rising. Arab countries have pledged billions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians. But Israel controls access to Palestinian areas and can control what aid gets in. Israel is eager to limit the amount of arms getting into Palestinian areas, as this uprising has seen the increasing use of weapons. Past uprisings were largely rock throwers versus armed Israeli police and troops. The Israelis are upset that much of the gun fire they are receiving is from Palestinian police, who were armed by the Israelis. The escalation of the fighting has increased the death toll among Israelis and inflamed Israeli public opinion. The fighting could become intense enough to trigger armed intervention from other Arab nations. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has sensed the direction of the current fighting and is again been seen carrying an automatic weapon and preaching armed violence against the Israelis. Arafat does not have much choice. The armed Palestinians are enormously popular among the general population. War like this until one side takes enormous losses and becomes demoralized. Attempts to arrange peace talks have so far failed and a hard line Israeli government appears likely to take over after the upcoming elections. Already, Israel is upgrading the defenses of the Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, guaranteeing that future Palestinian attacks will be trigger more violent and destructive battles. Israel has tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, the Palestinians do not. 


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