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Gunfire At Mideast Border

judy muller
CBS
Israeli troops opened fire Saturday on a Jordanian delegation visiting the Lebanese-Israeli border, wounding three people, witnesses said.

Eyewitness Tarek Tahboub, a member of an official delegation of 14 Jordanian associations visiting the Fatima gate, says Israeli soldiers there opened fire and wounded three Jordanians and a Lebanese.

In Jordan, Saleh Armouti, head of the Jordan Bar Association, said Israeli troops fired rubber bullets at the Jordanian unionists, who he said were chanting anti-Israeli slogans at the border.

The three wounded unionists are "in good condition," Armouti told reporters in Amman.

Israel's army radio said Israeli soldiers opened fire at three Lebanese who were trying to cut the border fence near Fatima gate, wounding one of the three. But according to the radio report, it was not clear to the soldiers whether those they fired on were trying to cross the fence to carry out an attack.

Saturday's incident was the most serious since Israel completed its troop withdrawal from south Lebanon on May 24. Fatima gate, near the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila, has been a popular gathering spot for the curious and the angry, who have regularly let loose at the Israeli outpost 15 feet across the border.

Among the wounded was Ali Abu Sukar, secretary-general of the Engineers Union in Jordan, Tahboub said in an interview from Marjayoun hospital, where the wounded were being treated. He also denied the Israeli army's account of the events.

"There was no provocation from our part. We did not throw stones, we did not cut through the fence. We were just shouting in celebration," Tahboub said.

Tahboub said one of the members of the delegation stood along the border fence shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great, when Israeli soldiers emerged from a border outpost. One of them opened fire at a crowd of about 150, injuring the four people, he said.

Abu Sukar also heads a committee opposed to normalization of ties with Israel under a peace treaty signed in 1994. The two others wounded were Ghassan Abu al-Haj and Rashid Ramahi, also of the Jordanian Engineers Association.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli military official said two people cut through the border fence and entered Israeli territory. Soldiers called on them to halt and fired in the air, but the intruders kept going, the source said. The soldiers fired at their legs, hitting one of them, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The source added that the behavior of the two men did not suggest that they belonged to a foreign delegation and said the Israeli army did not know of any further casualties.

The Jordanian Doctors Association urged the Jordanian government in a harshly worded statement to "take stern measures against the Zionist enemy" and for the 80-member parliament to denounce "the enemy and its foolish act."

The violence underlines the fragility of security conditions in the newly liberated Lebanese teritory, where anti-Israel guerrillas are now in control.

Although the United Nations has confirmed that Israel has withdrawn from southern Lebanon, the Lebanese government maintains Israel is still occupying tracts of land along the border. The dispute has delayed the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops along the frontier - and more crucially the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon.

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