Kurdish rebels continue assaults on Israeli outposts

JERUSALEM — Fallout from last week's killing of three Kurdish rioters at the Israeli Consulate in Berlin persisted over the weekend, with mass marches in Germany, Austria and Holland, and an attempted storming of the Israeli Consulate in Montreal.

Still, Israel decided to reopen the Berlin Consulate on Monday along with the rest of its European diplomatic missions that were closed due to Kurdish demonstrations following last week's capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish separatist leader.

Security at the missions remained on high alert as Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon told the Israeli cabinet there could be more attacks on Israeli missions or Jewish targets around the world.

The tensions have been prompted by Kurdish anger over reports that Israeli intelligence officials had helped Turkey arrest Ocalan.

Israel has repeatedly denied those reports, as has the United States, which last weekend acknowledged that it played a role in the arrest of Turkey's most-wanted terrorist.

Despite Israel's denial, in Bonn Saturday an estimated 7,000 Kurdish demonstrators marched through the streets chanting "Israeli murderers." The marchers wanted to hand in a protest letter but were prevented from reaching the embassy — closed for Shabbat in any case — by German riot police.

Instead, they hung up a sign on a nearby fence reading: "We are people, we want to live like people." According to a Reuters report, they also approached security guards and said: "These murderers [the Israeli security men] should be tried before a German court."

Similar demonstrations planned for Berlin and Stuttgart were banned. In Stuttgart, police broke up a group of 3,000 who defied the ban, arresting about 30 people.

In Montreal, a police officer was seriously injured and 14 people were arrested last Friday when Kurdish demonstrators charged the Israeli Consulate.

Montreal Urban Police spokesman Michel Fontaine said some 100 demonstrators clashed with police outside the office building in which the consulate is located. At one point the protesters broke through a locked revolving door and surged into the building's lobby.

Police said they allowed the Kurds to demonstrate peacefully at first, but intervened when the crowd rushed the building. Some of the demonstrators threw stones and ball bearings and wielded batons and iron bars, Fontaine said.

Other incidents possibly related to last week's shooting occurred last weekend in Paris, where a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli restaurant in the Jewish quarter early Saturday morning, and Moscow, where a bomb exploded not far from the Israeli Embassy late last Friday. It was not clear whether the embassy was a target.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shiron said the explosion was about 300 yards from the embassy and not aimed at it. He said the explosion was apparently a criminal event and that no Israelis were hurt.

Meanwhile, the security men who shot — and killed — the three Kurdish demonstrators Wednesday of last week returned to Israel this week.

The guards in question are reportedly two men in their mid-20s. Consulate worker Ruth Ya'acov, who was briefly taken hostage during the demonstration, has taken a one-week vacation, the Foreign Ministry said.

Eytan Bentsur, Israel Foreign Ministry director-general, and Ayalon, who headed a fact-finding mission in Germany, briefed the cabinet Sunday on the Berlin consulate riot.

According to the cabinet statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers "expressed their appreciation and praise for the manner in which consulate security guards responded to the incident."

During the Berlin riot, Kurdish demonstrators, brandishing clubs, hammers, and iron bars, pummeled their way past some 30 Berlin police officers who had arrived on the scene only half an hour earlier after receiving reports that Kurds planned to take over the consulate. The Kurds climbed over a fence surrounding the four-story white structure, broke through the door, and smashed second-floor windows. Nine Kurds barricaded themselves inside one room, briefly taking Ya'acov hostage.

At least 43 people were injured — 16 demonstrators and 27 police officers. Two of the dead, a man and a woman, were shot in the consulate's foyer; another man was shot in a stairwell.

In many ways, the incident marked a low point in the Jewish state's little-known history of relations with the Kurdish people.

Indeed, in a sign of how seriously they took Kurdish threats of reprisals for the killings at the consulate, Israeli officials made a point of referring publicly to the many years that Israel maintained friendly relations with the Kurdish people.

Some pointed in particular to a 10-year period starting in 1965 when Israel secretly trained and armed Kurdish rebels fighting for independence from Iraq.

But Kurds in Turkey, as well as in neighboring Iraq, have still not forgiven Israel for having turned its back on the Iraqi Kurds in the mid-1970s, after a decade in which the Jewish state gave direct support to their cause.

"The Kurds in Turkey appreciated the Israeli alliance with their Iraqi brethren," said Professor Jacques Yakar, an immigrant from Turkey who is a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University's archaeology department.

"They said that what we had started was good, but that we ruined it by stopping the aid."

For the next 10 years, Israeli delegations trained the Kurdish freedom fighters and extended medical and agricultural assistance.

Israel has had no direct involvement in the Kurdish struggle for self-determination since that time –1975.