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Foreigners Flock to Aid Palestinians

This in from AP: RAMALLAH, West Bank –– Hundreds of pro-Palestinian foreigners arrived in this West Bank town Thursday, offering themselves as human shields for Palestinians anticipating a massive military response by Israel to a suicide bombing that killed 20 Passover diners.
About 600 activists, most of them European members of the Public International Protection group, arrived in Ramallah for 10-day stays with local families. The town is Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters.

"We are going to stay here in Ramallah in particular to provide the Palestinians with protection," said French farmers' union leader Jose Bove.

"The Israeli government and our governments all know that we are in Ramallah. (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon must understand that if he decides to bombard Ramallah he is going to bombard hundreds of foreigners."

Sharon convened his ministers in Jerusalem into the small hours of Friday to discuss responding to Wednesday's suicide bombing by a Palestinian militant at a seafront hotel in Netanya.

"I'm here to tell the Israeli government and to tell my government that the source of terror and violence is the Israeli government and racism," said group member Karrin Wheeler, of Pittsburgh.

Another 200 other activists from Italy were turned back by Israeli troops at a road block at Kalandiya, just south of Ramallah.

Meanwhile, United Nations officials in Ramallah said several foreign staffers, mainly families with young children, left the town. The officials, however, denied reports that the organization ordered an evacuation.



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