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Palestinians Killed in Anti-American Protest - 2001-10-08

At least two Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in the Gaza Strip during a violent protest against the U.S. attack on terrorist-related targets in Afghanistan.

Palestinian police fought a gun battle with demonstrators from the Islamic University in Gaza who were protesting attacks by the United States and Britain on military targets and terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

The protestors carried pictures of alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden and shouted anti-American slogans in a demonstration banned by the Palestinian Authority.

After the march some of the demonstrators fired automatic weapons at police who fired guns and tear gas in an attempt to breakup the crowd.

Palestinian officials are distancing themselves from any link between the current uprising against Israeli occupation and Mr. bin Laden.

In a videotaped speech released Sunday, Mr. bin Laden referred to the conflict, saying Americans will not feel secure before there is security in Palestine.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the uprising should not be used as an excuse for extremist political or religious policies. In Mr. Abed Rabbo's words, "we do not want crimes committed in the name of Palestine."

Palestinian leaders have strongly condemned last month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Meanwhile, nervous Israelis lined up at gas mask distribution centers throughout the country to update protective equipment handed out 10 years ago when Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War.

In Jerusalem, soldiers distributed masks and serums to be used as antidotes against attacks using biological or chemical weapons.

Yehuda Oliva, 54, says his wife and children urged him to come to the center. "The question is would some non-rational persons in the Middle East like Saddam Hussein make a decision that he feels himself to be now involved and the first victim would again be Israel," he said. "Having a wife and four children you have to make a decision, are you going to spend sometime and refresh your masks and this was a family decision. My wife and my kids put a lot of pressure on me this morning."

While newspapers carried large headlines saying the war against terrorism has started, Israeli leaders tried to calm fears saying the Jewish state is not an active participant.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said in a statement that Israel is ready to offer all possible assistance in the fight against terrorism, but Israel is not participating in the military offensive.