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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com
Boston Globe Online / Nation | World
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MIDEAST

Leaders deplore, but people rejoice

By Charles A. Radin, Globe Staff, 9/12/2001

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian youths danced and handed out candies on the streets here and in Jerusalem yesterday to celebrate the terrorist strikes against the United States, and even those Palestinians who mourned the loss of civilian life said the US government got what it deserved.

With a remarkably high unity of opinion, businessmen, laborers, and students said that they condemned the targeting of civilians, but that the people of a nation inevitably suffer for the crimes of their government.

''I felt bad for the civilians,'' said Khaled Hussein, 27, a factory worker. ''But America is fully responsible. It is a superpower, and it should treat the nations fairly, but it does not. ... This is a reaction to its actions against other nations.''

His friend, Asem Mussafer, 25, a psychology student at Al Quds University, said, ''America has a long history of aggression, like the aggression against Japan at Hiroshima, like the aggression against Iraq.

''I feel sympathy with the civilian victims, but we support the message that is sent to the government of America,'' he said. ''The suicide bombings in Israel are just a little reaction to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Violence breeds violence. In the end ... America and Israel will perish.''

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attacks and offered condolences to the American people and government. ''We are completely shocked,'' he said in Gaza. ''It's unbelievable.''

Israel declared a day of national mourning, evacuated its embassies and consulates around the world, and closed its airspace to civilian aircraft from other countries as a precautionary measure. The Israeli Air Force was put on high alert.

Emerging after midnight from a meeting of Israel's security cabinet, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared the attacks on New York and Washington ''a turning point in the war against international terrorism,'' after which there will be no refuge anywhere for terrorists.

''This is a war between the good and the bad, between humanity and those who are bloodthirsty,'' Sharon said.

On the streets of Israel and in its government offices, workers and officials watched the unfolding events in slack-jawed amazement and listened in confusion to conflicting reports from Israeli and Arab media about who was responsible for the mayhem.

An Abu Dhabi station reported that the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed the responsitility. Another Arab channel said the Democratic Front had denied any connection. An Israeli station reported that Saudi Arabian expatriate Osama bin Laden was at the heart of the conspiracy.

Many Israelis wondered aloud to passing Americans whether ''America will show restraint'' in its reaction to the terror, a reference to State Department officials who urged Israel to show restraint after recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem and other major cities.

Palestinians in Jerusalem celebrated outside the Damascus Gate to the historic Old City, shouting, clapping, and passing around candies. Teenagers stoned Israeli buses and cars in nearby streets before a tight lid was clamped on the streets of East Jerusalem.

In a coffeehouse on Musrara Street in Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem, Fahmi Abu Nab, 25, a driver, said the attack on America came ''from God.''

''America thinks she is greater than God,'' he said. ''This is a punishment from God. This is a gift from God to the Palestinian and Iraqi people.''

Pointing at a television that was showing the collapse of a World Trade Center tower, his friend Harbi Abu Sneineh, 35, added: ''God does not fight with stones. Look what God has done to America.''

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who many expect will return to leadership of the country, said the attack came from the midst of ''an international coalition of terrorist states and organizations that includes Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Palestinian entity,'' and leaders including bin Laden, Arafat, and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

This coalition calls the United States the great Satan because ''our free civilization, our free way of life is satanic,'' Netanyahu said. ''Everything that we represent seems to them as an abomination. ... In fact, they attack Israel precisely because it's an extension of this greater satan.''

He called for an alliance to crush ''the terrorist regimes and the terrorist organizations that they sponsor.''

''It's important to wipe them out now, when we have the power'' because victims could number in the millions if terrorist regimes and organizations are allowed to acquire nuclear and biological weapons, Netanyahu said.

Across the Middle East, leaders condemned the terrorist attack, while people in the streets welcomed it.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Washington's key Arab ally, called the attacks ''horrific beyond imagination.''

But ordinary Egyptians felt otherwise. ''Do you want to hear my honest opinion?'' asked Samira Mohamed, a 26-year-old lawyer. ''I was very happy when I heard the news. My happiness is based on my utter rejection of the US treatment of the Middle East case.''

The jubilation was echoed in other countries with large Palestinian populations, where sentiment has crystalized against the United States over the course of an 11-month Palestinian uprising against Israel.

While Jordan's King Abdullah called the attacks ''terrorist actions that contradict all ... values,'' Jordanians and Palestinian refugees in Amman took to the streets in joy.

Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon said that ''these tragic actions contradict all human and religious values.'' But Lebanese citizens said the attack was payback for US policies.

''We're ecstatic,'' said Ali Mareh, a resident of Beirut. ''Let America have a taste of what we've tasted.''

Material from Reuters was used in this report. Charles A. Radin can be reached at radin@globe.com.

This story ran on page A20 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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