By Nasser Shiyoukhi, Hebron
DOZENS of international observers abandoned this volatile West Bank city yesterday after irate crowds smashed windows and threw stones at their headquarters - the most violent Palestinian protest yet against Danish cartoons depicting Islam’s revered prophet.
The unrest came as the violent Islamic Jihad declared it would forge ahead with its attacks against Israel and stay out of any future government headed by Hamas.
The announcement signalled that, even if international pressure succeeds in persuading Hamas, which won January 25 parliamentary elections, to moderate its violent ideology, other Palestinian radicals won’t.
In Cairo, the Hamas political chief warned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas not to institute changes in government without getting its approval. Palestinian and Israeli media have reported that Abbas, leader of the Fatah Party, was considering putting more of the Palestinians’ powerful security apparatus under his control.
In Hebron, hundreds of rioters, most of them youths, overpowered a Palestinian police detail at the compound of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH The police were stationed at the building after the Danish cartoons sparked protests across the Muslim world more than a week ago.
Some protesters threw bottles and stones at TIPH’s office building and tried to set it on fire. A few forced themselves inside, where unarmed observers waved clubs in an attempt to drive them off. After reinforcements were called in, Palestinian police pushed back the crowd, but not before protesters had smashed nearly all of the windows in the mission’s three-story office building, and damaged three TIPH cars.
Eleven Danish members of TIPH left Hebron more than a week ago but, after the attack yesterday, all 60 members of the mission’s foreign staff decided to leave for their own safety, said a spokeswoman.
TIPH was deployed in 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, a US-born Israeli settler, massacred 29 Palestinians at the city’s hotly contested holy site, the traditional burial cave of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and three of their wives.