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IDF Head Tells Palestinians to Stay Away from Violence

The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force warned Palestinians to refrain from violence even if there is no progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak made the comment to foreign journalists several days after Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, in an address to followers in the Gaza Strip, referred to the possibility of a renewed Palestinian uprising.

Shahak referred to clashes between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in September 1996, when Palestinian rioting erupted in response to the opening of a new entrance to an ancient tunnel alongside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In three days of violence, 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians were killed.

Shahak said he believed that “orders were given to Palestinian policemen to open fire on Israeli soldiers,” which he described as a “great mistake.”

“I hope that the lesson was learned,” he said, adding that he also hoped that “whatever the situation we are in,” the two sides would resolve “disputes, in a different way.”

Shahak’s remarks came on the heels of heightened tensions between Israeli and Palestinian forces as American officials attempt to restore credibility to the long-dormant peace process.

Israeli media reported this week on preparations within the Israeli army for a contingency plan in the event of a military confrontation with Palestinian security forces.

Israel Television’s Channel One news said the plan was called “Field of Thorns.” It added that Palestinian police had also been training for a possible clash with Israel.

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