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Thousands March to Commemorate Intifada Anniversary - 2002-09-28

Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in rallies and demonstrations across the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to mark the second anniversary of their "intifada" or uprising against Israel. One Palestinian protester was reported killed and at least six were injured in clashes with Israeli troops, and Israeli soldiers are also reported to have shot dead a Palestinian militant in the Gaza Strip earlier in the day.

Palestinians poured into the streets across the Gaza Strip Saturday, many carrying Palestinian flags and posters of Yasser Arafat. Hundreds more defied a strict Israeli curfew in several towns of the West Bank to take part in marches and demonstrations.

The activities mark the second anniversary of the start of the current intifada. The uprising was sparked when then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the most disputed site in Jerusalem, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. In almost daily violence since then, more than 1800 Palestinians and over 600 Israelis have lost their lives.

In some instances rallies marking the uprising's second anniversary took on a decidedly festive air. Palestinians sent up balloons tied to Palestinians flags and pictures of Yasser Arafat - some of which even floated into Jewish West Jerusalem. And, in at least one instance, rally organizers chased away a group of gunmen who tried to take part in the Gaza City demonstration.

Palestinian leader Arafat vowed Saturday that the struggle for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital would continue. He spoke by telephone from his headquarters in Ramallah, and his message was broadcast by loudspeakers to crowds at a rally in Gaza City.

Mr. Arafat remains trapped inside his compound with more than 200 of his men, surrounded by Israeli troops who've besieged his headquarters for over a week. Israel is demanding the surrender of some of his men, who Israel says are wanted for involvement in terror attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, who ordered the siege, has come under increasing domestic and international criticism for the siege, including from Israel's main ally, the United States. Mr. Sharon is now sending a senior emissary to Washington for talks with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about how to end the siege.