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08-09-1990

Israeli police kill 17 Palestinians

Seventeen Palestinians are shot and killed, and over 100 are wounded, by Israeli police at a mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Although both Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups accused police of using unnecessary violence, an official report commissioned by the Israeli government, released on October 26, claimed that a group of Palestinians had started the conflict by throwing stones at police, who then responded in self-defense. Even so, the report admitted that there had been "an indiscriminate use of live ammunition" by the officers. After an eight-month inquiry, Magistrate Ezra Kama, an Israeli judge, overturned the findings of the government committee, ruling that the crowd of Palestinians had not been responsible for starting the conflict. In his 54-page report, Kama claimed that a small group of police "accidentally" dropped a tear gas canister near a crowd of Muslim women.

After Muslims threw stones at the police and drove them away, the police returned with reinforcements and began firing into the crowd. The judge ruled that the Palestinians overreacted, as did the police, who used live ammunition "without reasonable need" and not "as a result of facing a real threat to their lives." Kama did not, however, bring charges against the officers. Sparking a wave of Palestinian attacks on Jews, the incident caused the Israeli government to close the "Green Line," marking the division between the territory captured by Israel in 1967 and the 1948 border. Palestinians believed this to be a symbolic victory in their fight against Israeli rule because it meant that the Israeli government finally recognized a division that they had long denied even existed. The Israeli government had previously insisted that Israel and the occupied territory were part of a single "Eretz Yisrael," the Holy Land believed to belong to the Jews both historically and religiously. One journalist, Tariq Kayyal, said of the four-day closure of the Green Line, "it proves that there are two nations, two systems."