Ramallah Residents Protest Army Demolition of Houses

Residents of the West Bank town of Ramallah staged a three-hour strike that shut down all schools and shops today to protest the demolition of two houses in the neighboring village of Silwad by the military government earlier in the week.

The shopkeepers ended their strike after a few hours, but scores of pupils continued to demonstrate despite police action taken to disperse them. They carried banners which read “We Aren’t Afraid of Zionism.” The crowds were dispersed, only to reappear shortly afterwards in other parts the town. More demonstrations were said to be planned in Silwad itself.

The incident which provoked the protests — and sharp Egyptian criticism — occurred Monday when Israeli army bulldozers razed the West Bank homes of two villagers reportedly involved in terrorist activities. One of the villagers was reported to have participated in nine different terrorist actions. The other, Akram Abdul-Rahman, reportedly headed a political assassination unit in Ramallah, which killed a well-known Arab businessman and a government official earlier this year and was reportedly planning further attacks on West Bank Arabs who cooperate with Israeli authorities.

The demolitions were described by military authorities as a deterrent measure, and not a reinstatement of the previous punitive policy which prevailed in the occupied territories a decade ago. Town and village leaders in the area said, however, that the army is planning further demolitions and that it is already surveying houses in advance of their demolition. West Bank mayors and council leaders sent telegrams to President Carter to that effect yesterday. (In Washington, the State Department had no comment on reports about the demolition of the houses.)

LAWYER FILES CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION

Meanwhile, lawyer Felicia Langer, who represents the owners of the demolished houses, filed a claim with the West Bank military commander yesterday demanding compensation for the houses and a permit to have them rebuilt. Langer told reporters that the Silwad demolitions were carried out in contravention of an injunction she obtained from the Supreme Court Sunday night in which she was assured that the buildings would not be touched until a three-man court could hear her clients’ appeal against “collective punishment.”

While Langer’s contention is valid, a technical mix-up prevented the injunction from reaching the military authorities in time. A court official stressed that the injunction was picked up on Monday morning, hours after the demolition operation was completed.

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