TEL AVIV (Aug. 20)
An around-the-clock curfew was in effect today in E1 Arish, the only major city in the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula, after a general strike and demonstration by the city’s Arab residents against Israel. A search, now under way to find the inciters of the crippling shut-down, is reportedly concentrating on the 5,000 Egyptians living in the area.
At the same time, Israeli authorities persuaded the Arab Mayor of Nablus, in the occupied west bank section of the Jordan River, to reverse a decision on Friday to resign. They arrested 11 Arabs in Bethlehem who signed a declaration of loyalty to Jordan’s King Hussein.
Occupation officials in Old Jerusalem permitted yesterday the re-opening of four shops which were padlocked as a penalty for the participation of their Arab owners in a one day general strike in the Old City two weeks ago. An Arab-owned bus transport firm, which had its license revoked for the same reason, was allowed to resume operations. The Arab entrepreneurs expressed regret for their actions in a letter to the Israeli military commander.
Another meeting with well-known Arabs and merchants took place in the old section of Jerusalem at which the commander of the central front, Brig. Gavish issued a stern warning against repetition of the strike of two weeks ago which almost paralyzed the Old City, and against any other demonstrations of disobedience to the Israeli occupation.
The demonstration in E1 Arish, on the peninsula’s northern coast, was the first since Israeli troops seized it in the June war. It was preceded by distribution of leaflets yesterday calling for a general strike. Arab merchants responded by refusing to open their shops. Other Arabs placed rocks to block the main street. An Egyptian flag was hoisted.
Israeli security forces quickly removed the roadblocks and the flag and the military governor imposed a curfew which reportedly will remain in effect until the instigators of the demonstration and strike are found. A large number of Egyptians were trapped in E1 Arish when Israeli troops captured it and Egypt has refused to readmit them The strike and demonstration coincided with the arrival of a number of Israelis after E1 Arish was declared open for visitors with no permits required.
ISRAELI AUTHORITIES RELEASE ARAB NOTABLES ARRESTED IN BETHLEHEM
The arrested Bethlehem Arabs were freed yesterday after an investigation disclosed they had been forced to sign the loyalty statement under threat. They pledged not to participate anymore in anti-Israel subversive activities. They included a member of the Jordanian Parliament and three doctors. Their declaration had been broadcast last week over Amman Radio in a statement which gave the name of the signers.
Tension reportedly subsided in Nablus today after the discussions with the Mayor, who resigned during the weekend, ignoring a Jordanian regulation specifying that he was required to complete his term which ends on September 1. The resignation followed issuance of an Israeli occupation order extending indefinitely the tenure of all west bank Arab officials. All members of the Nablus Municipal Council resigned with the Mayor. He was persuaded to rescind his resignation and agreed to cooperate with the Israeli authorities, resuming his duties this morning.
The occupation authorities also reported that teachers in Nablus, who had initially refused to accept Israeli salaries to continue teaching, also changed their minds. Nablus schools will open September 1 on schedule in Nablus at the same time that Israeli schools do.
The Israeli semi-official Arab-language daily, “E1 Yaum,” was banned for distribution in the west bank area. No reason was given for the ban but it was believed that Israeli authorities objected to an article reporting illegal trade movements across the Jordan River between the west bank section and Jordan. Foreign correspondents in Jordan have been reporting that truckloads of West Bank farm produce have been moved across the River for weeks with both Israeli and Jordanian authorities tacitly ignoring the brisk trade.