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Cablegate: The Situation On the Ground: March 16, 2004; (1630

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 001631

SIPDIS

NEA FOR BURNS/SATTERFIELD
NEA/SA/EX FOR AUSTIN-FERGUSON; DEPT FOR DS/IP/ITA; DEPT FOR
DS/IP/NEA; DRL FOR A/S CRANER
NSC FOR ABRAMS/DANIN
USAID FOR DCHA, DCHA/FFP
CENTCOM FOR GENERAL ABIZAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWBG PTER ASEC PHUM CASC KPAL
SUBJECT: THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND: MARCH 16, 2004; (1630
HOURS LOCAL) - RUMORS IN GAZA OF INTERNATIONAL EVACUATION;
CHILD IN WEST BANK UNWITTINGLY TRANSPORTS BOMB


THIS IS A JOINT MESSAGE FROM CONGEN JERUSALEM AND EMBASSY TEL
AVIV

1. (SBU) Summary. Israeli press reports suggesting that a
"severe" military crackdown on Gaza was likely following last
week's suicide bombing at Ashdod port and a rumor that
internationals were being ordered to leave Gaza, fueled
widespread concern that internationals were preparing to
evacuate the Gaza Strip. An unspecified number of German
diplomats reportedly left, but most of the German mission
remained, according to UNRWA. Posts have received no reports
of evacuations by other diplomatic missions. In the West
Bank, a child who regularly earns money carting bags from one
side of a checkpoint to the other for travelers was
reportedly caught transporting a bomb through a checkpoint
near Nablus. According to press reports, the child did not
know he was carrying a bomb. The bomb was safely defused.
End Summary.

---------
West Bank
---------

2. (SBU) ATTACKS:

-- Deaths: Nil.

-- Injuries: Roughly 18 Palestinians were injured in clashes
with the IDF over the separation barrier near Bayt Liqya on
March 15.

-- Bombs Defused: Israeli soldiers defused a bomb that a
child between the ages of 10 and 12 had tried to carry
through the Huwara checkpoint, near Nablus, on March 15.
According to Israeli media, the child, who earns money
carting bags from one side of the checkpoint to the other for
travelers, did not know the contents of the bag. The boy was
released after being questioned by the IDF for a few hours.

3. (SBU) ARRESTS/PRISONER ISSUES:

-- Israeli troops arrested six Fatah activists in Zabada,
near Jenin, on March 15 during a meeting with village council
officials. Three of the six activists were later released.

4. (SBU) BARRIER:

-- The Israeli High Court ordered the IDF to cease work on
the separation barrier in Ni'lin village, near Qiryat Sefer,
on March 15, pending review of the barrier's impact on nearby
residents.

----------
Gaza Strip
----------

5. (SBU) ATTACKS:

-- Deaths: Nil.

-- Injury: A 23-year-old Palestinian woman was shot in the
leg as the result of clashes between the IDF and Palestinian
militants near Rafah at 1220 hours on March 16.

-- Injury: Two members of the Palestinian security services
were wounded in a firefight with IDF, after the IDF destroyed
a building near Netzarim, just south of Gaza city (see
demolitions).

Mortars/Rockets/Shootings:

-- The IDF reported eight shootings, one mortar shell, and
three anti-tank missiles in Gaza. No Israeli injuries
resulted.

-- Demolition: The IDF demolished an abandoned building that
previously served as a college but which had been more
recently used by PA security services. The IDF claimed that
the building had been used by gunmen to fire at Israeli
troops. The IDF also uprooted 40 dunams of citrus and olive
trees during this action, according to UNRWA.

-- Demolition: The IDF demolished a home near Rafah. Ten
persons were made homeless, according to UNRWA.

6. (SBU) BORDER CROSSINGS/CHECKPOINTS

-- Route Four (Salahadeen Road), the main north-south traffic
artery, remained open.

-- Erez Crossing was closed for Palestinian laborers and
Palestinian staff of international organizations and NGOs.
The crossing was open for internationals, but vehicle access
remained forbidden.

-- Sufa Crossing was open for transfer of aggregates, but
closed for laborers.

-- Karni Terminal, the only Gaza Strip-GOI crossing for the
import and export of goods, was open.

-- Rafah Terminal was open.

--The Al-Mowassi checkpoints at Tel al-Sultan and Toufah were
open.

7. (SBU) POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS:

-- There were widespread rumors in Gaza March 16 that
internationals were evacuating in anticipation of a possible
harsh IDF crackdown on Gaza. A separate rumor said
internationals were being ordered to leave by the GOI.
Israeli media reported that PM Sharon had reportedly asked
the IDF to "prepare a more severe response (to the March 14
Ashdod suicide bombings) than usual." According to UNRWA, an
unspecified number of German diplomats left the Gaza Strip,
but others from the German mission remained. Posts have had
no reports of other diplomatic missions evacuating staff
members.

-- Heavy gun fire was reported in Gaza city as university
students fired into the air to celebrate university
elections. Posts do not have firm numbers but reportedly
Fatah won a majority of the positions. No injuries were
reported from the gunfire.

********************************************* ********************
Visit Embassy Tel Aviv's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/telaviv

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website.
********************************************* ********************
KURTZER

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