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Gaza Mayor Restored to Office

Rashid al-Shawa was restored to the office of Mayor of Gaza yesterday three years after his removal by Israeli authorities for defying their orders to incorporate the 30,000 Palestinians of the A-Shatti refugee camp into his municipality and for possible terrorist connections. A new town council made up of local Arab notables was installed along with al-Shawa, replacing the Israeli-appointed municipal committee headed by an Israeli, Uri Tzetzik, which has run Gaza since 1972.

Thousands of guests–mayors, chieftains and dignitaries of Gaza Strip towns–attended the installation ceremonies at the Town Hall. But the occasion was marred by renewed tension. Police reported that 15 hours before the ceremonies, a bomb was hurled at the home of Tawfiqal Yazgi, a local businessman who is one of the newly elected Council members. Yazgi’s son was wounded.

Terrorists apparently regard al-Shawa as a collaborator with the Israelis despite his defiance of their orders three years ago and the fact that he had once sheltered a wanted terrorist leader in his home for six weeks. The re-appointment of al-Shawa as Mayor followed months of relative quiet in Gaza, a city of 100,000, once a hotbed of terrorist bombings, sabotage and assassination.

Some observers viewed the restoration of an Arab Mayor and municipal council in Gaza as part of an Israeli move toward granting administrative autonomy to Arabs in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Such a proposal was made publicly for the first time by Defense Minister Shimon Peres earlier this week. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon is expected to submit a plan for Arab administrative autonomy to the Cabinet shortly.

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