As clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians continue, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) reported yesterday that one of its medical team has been hit in the face by an Israeli bullet while on duty. The Christian Aid-funded UPMRC, one of the biggest medical services in the Occupied Territories, said that the first aid volunteer, Mazen Saqer Barghouthi, was wounded while assisting injured civilians in the West Bank town of Ramallah. UPMRC President, Dr Mustafa Barghouti, says that what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is "nothing less than a massacre". "The Israeli government still controls more than 80 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and its military forces are now invading the limited areas of Palestinian Authority control," says Dr Barghouti. "Seven years after the Oslo accords, we are witnessing the evolution of an apartheid system. Bantustans cannot substitute the right to an independent state. The Palestinian people ask for peaceful coexistence on the basis of Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967." According to Christian Aid's Programme Officer for the Middle East, Sue Turrell, the visit of Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Al Aqsa Mosque may have brought Palestinians on to the streets, but the true cause of the current violence is much deeper. "For Palestinians, the problem is what they have not gained from the Oslo peace process," says Sue. "Since 1993, the majority of Palestinians have seen their living standards fall and unemployment rise. Despite international aid, development has stalled, and the Palestinians are forced to live in a crazy jigsaw of Israeli and Palestinian Authority control." In a statement issued today, Dr Mustafa Barghouti made a plea for the international community to support the Palestinians' right to a 'just' peace. "We ask for international support to end the decades-long occupation so that a just peace can prevail in our region," adds Dr Barghouti. "This will serve the future of not only Palestinians, but also of Israelis who cannot continue to cling to the illusion that they can maintain an occupation without taking responsibility for its injustice and oppression."
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