JERUSALEM (Nov. 20)
Tension continued to run high on the West Bank today as local Arab leaders protested the wounding of 10 Arab youths by Israeli soldiers earlier this week while Chief of Staff Gen. Raphael Eitan defended the troops’ action as necessary to maintain public order. Violence flared briefly in Nablus yesterday where Israeli forces fired into the air to disperse student demonstrators near the high school.
There were no repetitions of the rack-throwing incidents that occurred in Ramallah and El Bireh Monday and Tuesday when Israeli patrols opened fire wounding 10 youngsters, three of them women. The Military Government said the sporadic nature of the incidents and the fact that they have subsided confirmed its assumption that the unrest was of local origin and not provoked from outside the territory.
In Washington yesterday, the State Department expressed deep regret over the use of live ammunition by the Israeli troops. Department spokesman John Trattner said “The use of potentially lethal force to disperse unarmed demonstrators can lead to grave and far-reaching consequences.”
EITAN SAYS SOLDIERS ACTED CORRECTLY
Eitan, speaking on the Voice of Israel radio yesterday, said the sole purpose of the army was to maintain public order and if this is kept “no soldiers will be seen on the streets” in West Bank towns. Otherwise, he warned, the necessary precautions will be taken. “This has been our policy and it has not changed, ” he said. He said the soldiers who fired live ammunition — rather than rubber bullets sometimes used to disperse rioters — were acting according to regulations and defending themselves. Most of the wounded were shot in the legs.
But Acting Mayor Audi Rantissi of Ramallah, where nine youths were wounded, charged that the solders “shot to kill.” The mayors of other West Bank towns, the chairmen of local chambers of commerce and the National Committee of Arab Students in Israel condemned the soldiers’ actions.
The clashes between Arab youths and Israeli troops were precipitated by the Military Government’s order shutting down Bir Zeit University for seven days in order to enforce a ban on “Palestine Week” on annual campus event. The Israeli authorities contended that “Palestine Week” is a political manifestation aimed at provoking Palestinian nationalist and anti-Israel sentiments.
A statement by the student council and faculty association yesterday insisted it was “a purely cultural event.” The statement said “it is political, if at all, only in the inevitable but harmless sense that it is Palestinian rather than voodoo or Buddhist or Jewish.” It was to include exhibitions of painting, drawings, folklore, dancing and lectures on Palestinian life, the statement said.
Bir Zeit remained closed today on orders of the Military Government. Bethlehem University was shut down by its administration in an act of solidarity and protest.
REMINDER: There will be no Bulletin dated Nov. 27 due to Thanksgiving, a postal holiday.