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The blood flows red on both sides of Mideast conflict Israeli border policeman, Palestinian physician wounded and worried

JERUSALEM — JERUSALEM -- The wounds of Mike Raz and Mustafa Barghouthi heal slowly.

Two men caught in the cross-fire of their two peoples, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian doctor, they survived the deadly clashes of their volatile coexistence. And now they and their countrymen face an uncertain future circumscribed by the polarities of peace.

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Today, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators reopen talks on outstanding aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.

The redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron heads the list. Palestinians want Israeli soldiers removed from Hebron, a city of 150,000 Palestinians and 400 Orthodox Jews in two small enclaves.

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The Israeli settlers -- as well as many politically conservative Jews -- insist that Israel maintain a presence in the city, the location of the tomb of Abraham, a patriarch revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The talks to be held at the border of Israel and the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip resulted from the Washington summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The two met under the auspices of the United States in response to three days of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

The violence, which claimed 73 lives and left hundreds on both sides wounded, began after Israel opened a tourist tunnel near the Western Wall and close to Islamic holy sites. But it was fed by Palestinian frustration over the stalled peace process, dire economic conditions, expansion of Jewish settlements and Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands.

Raz, a lieutenant in the Israeli border police, and Barghouthi, a Palestinian doctor who oversees health clinics, became victims of the violence the same day. Both were shot in the clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters and eventually Palestinian police officers.

Since then, Raz has been recuperating in a hospital. Barghouthi has returned to work with bandages on. In interviews last week, they talked about their experiences and the consequences of a bloodied peace.

They speak as only two individuals, but their reflections provide some insight into the people who will have to live with decisions governed as much by political agendas as popular will.

Mustafa Barghouthi, 42, was rushing to help a wounded man on a rooftop when shots rang out that Thursday morning in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the scene of the initial violence.

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The physician didn't realize he had been hit until suddenly he couldn't hear and he felt blood on his face. Despite his injury, Barghouthi helped carry the wounded man from the rooftop to a waiting ambulance.

When he arrived at the hospital, the doctor realized shrapnel had struck his face, head, back and arm. Today, his arm still smarts; an infection has set in.

Barghouthi oversees a system of rural health clinics in the West Bank. And for the past week, he has been working to ensure that his medical teams get through the military checkpoints. Israel has sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protect against renewed violence.

The outcome of the Washington summit has left him dismayed.

"We are in a deadlock," said Barghouthi, a former Palestinian peace negotiator. "And while rationally I understand I should have expected difficulties with this new government, emotionally was hoping for some progress."

Barghouthi said he can see no break in the stalemate between Netanyahu's hard-line government and Arafat's Palestinian authority. Palestinians want Israeli troops out of Hebron, their people released from Israeli jails and other aspects of the agreement implemented. They want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they dream will someday exist.

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Netanyahu's Likud bloc wants to slow the pace of the peace process to ensure security. But the government also wants to increase Israeli presence in the territories and ensure its control over Jerusalem.

"This is not a government that is capable of making peace," Barghouthi said. "Their declarations and their acts show they don't believe in peaceful coexistance or the right of Palestinians of self-determination. All this was leading to an annexation of the occupied territories and creating a system of apartheid."

"This is dangerous also for Israel," he said. "Instead of decreasing the lines of friction between them and us, they are increasing them."

The Israeli public will have to decide "if they want peace and coexistence and stability" and then do something about it, he said.

Barghouthi recognizes that there are rational and irrational people on both sides. But he said Palestinians have made steady progress toward accepting a historical compromise, peaceful coexistence between two states.

In the past week, the Palestinian people "managed to show the world that although it's exhausted and tired and economically depressed, it will struggle for its dignity and its future," he said.

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For the past year, Israeli Lt. Mike Raz has worked alongside Palestinian police. He is the operations officer for the Israeli Border Police unit in the Gaza Strip, which conducts the majority of the joint patrols in the area.

He described relations between the two police forces as "super."

"At first we didn't know each other, didn't know how to behave toward each other. There was a lot of suspicion," said Raz, who began his work in Gaza during the years of the uprising of stone-throwing Palestinian youth, the intifada, before the 1993 peace agreements.

"Every beginning is rough. When a baby is born, he finds walking difficult until he gets used to it," Raz said.

But the Israeli and the Palestinian officers got to know each other. They talked about where they trained, families, soccer, girls. They avoided politics, but they shared morning coffee and ate together. "We trusted each other. There was a sense of mutual respect," he said.

Like Barghouthi, Raz was wounded on the second day of the clashes. A Palestinian protest outside the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the strip had escalated -- stones to rubber bullets to live ammunition. Raz took cover behind his armor-plated jeep.

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"During the exchange of fire, I saw a man pointing his gun at me," the 24-year-old Israeli recalled from his bed in a hospital outside Tel Aviv. "It was a Palestinian policeman in a blue uniform. I saw him aim straight, I aimed at him, fired two bullets and that moment I lost the sense in my hand. Apparently he hit me."

The bullet fractured Raz's clavicle and a rib, damaging nerves and his right hand along the way.

The fighting at Kfar Darom was among the most intense in the three days of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We had many casualties at Kfar Darom because we couldn't fire at civilians and they took advantage of it to fire at us," Raz said.

"If we would have fired at the places where most civilians were [standing], we would have created a terrible blood bath," he said.

"We tried to avoid that in every way we could. I can't fire at a 10-year-old boy who throws stones because he is just doing what he was told to do."

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Raz, a resident of Ashdod, said he can empathize with the difficult economic conditions of the Palestinians. But that should not be "a reason to kill, eradicate and let out fury in such a way."

Raz, a six-year veteran of the border police, said he believes Palestinian and Israeli police can work together.

"It's difficult, but it can be done," he said, noting that some joint patrols continued operating even during the clashes.

"It must come from the top. What happens up there influences the situation at the bottom. The wheels of peace must start moving. We [soldiers] are only the ones who maintain them."

Palestinian and Israelis must reach an agreement, said the wounded Israeli.

"Do you think that a Palestinian mother of someone whom I hit feels less pain than my mother? And a Palestinian boy who gets hurt doesn't develop hatred? I don't want the wars to continue," said Raz.

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"I would like an agreement now so that my son won't have to fight in wars."

Pub Date: 10/06/96



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