JERUSALEM (Mar. 18)
The West Bank remained quiet but tense today as a protest strike virtually paralyzed Hebron, the largest town in the Judaea region and curfews remained in force in Ramallah, El Bireh and Chalchul. Re-enforced Israeli security forces patrolled the towns and roads on the alert for breaches of peace by either Arabs or Jews. No new incidents were reported, however, except for scattered demonstrations and tire-burnings by Arab youths.
Defense Minister Shimon Peres toured the deserted streets of Hebron where shops and schools were shut down. But he avoided a meeting with Hebron’s Mayor, Sheikh Mohammed Ali el-Jabaari, a sign of Israel’s displeasure over the wave of violence that has escalated on the West Bank during the past three weeks. At the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, a team of neuro-surgeons worked to save the life of an 11-year-old Arab boy, one of three shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers in a fracas yesterday on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.
The military police were reported to be conducting a vigorous investigation of the incident which occurred when Arab youths stoned a private car carrying soldiers and tried to overturn it. According to unconfirmed reports, shots were fired at the youngsters by soldiers in the car and by other soldiers passing by. The soldiers in the car were said to have fired into the air to frighten off the demonstrators. It was not clear whose shots hit the three Arab youths, critically wounding one of them in the head.
JEWISH EXTREMISTS WARNED
Israeli authorities made it clear, meanwhile, that they would not tolerate lawlessness and vigilantism on the part of Jewish militants on the West Bank. Defense Minister Peres declared on a television interview last night that the authorities “will not hesitate for a moment” to use whatever means are necessary to restore order and security on the West Bank “on behalf of all residents, Arabs and Jews.” He specifically warned “Jewish extremists” that any breach of the law or incitement to breach the law would be severely dealt with.
Peres was responding to provocative statements by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, leader of Kiryat Arba, the Orthodox Jewish community established several years ago adjacent to Hebron. Levinger went on television last night to exhort the townspeople to “shoot to kill” if they were stoned or otherwise endangered by Arabs. He said he “issued these orders” because the Hebron Arabs “have to be taught a lesson and put in their place.” Peres reminded the Kiryat Arba residents that only the authorized representatives of the State and its security forces are permitted to shoot or give others orders to shoot.
Attorney General Aharon Barak said he would examine Levinger’s words and deeds to see if they constituted a breach of the law. Defense Ministry officials said they would prosecute him if it was found that he violated the law by incitement to violence. Observers noted that all of the Kiryat Arba residents were licensed to carry weapons. There were reports yesterday that some Kiryat Arba Jews were stoned by Arabs in Hebron but no serious injuries were reported.