West Bank Mayor Returns Home to a Hero’s Welcome

Mayor Karim Khalaf, crippled in a car bombing last June, returned to this West Bank town today with a vow to “increase my efforts to establish a Palestinian state headed by the PLO.” The mayor, who underwent medical treatment, in the U.S. for the past six months, received a hero’s welcome from the townspeople.

Israeli forces kept a low profile and did not interfere with the demonstration despite its political nature. Although the Military Government did not permit anybody but his immediate family to greet Khalaf when he crossed the Allenby bridge from Jordan, no attempt was made to disperse the hundreds of Ramallah residents, mostly high school and university students, who massed outside the town hall singing Palestinian songs, waving posters with nationalist slogans and forming the V for victory sign for television and press cameras in anticipation of the mayor’s arrival.

When his car drove up, it was surrounded by masse of people cheering, “In the spirit of blood we shall redeem you brother Khalaf.” The crowd stormed into the building following the mayor who blew kisses at them. He made a point of stressing that the attempt on his life did not change his views and would not halt his activities.

“I am returning to my office as Mayor,” he told reporters after settling down at his desk. “I promise and I swear that I shall increase my efforts to establish a Palestinian state headed by the PLO.” He also expressed confidence that American policy would change in the future and the U.S. would support a Palestinian state.

Khalaf was severely injured when a bomb exploded under his car last June 2, exactly one month after six yeshiva students were murdered in a terrorist ambush in Hebron. On the same day, Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus was mangled in a car bomb attack that cast him both his legs. A third bomb, intended for the Mayor of El Birch, blinded on Israeli Druze police sapper who was trying to dismantle it when it exploded: The attacks have been widely attributed to Jewish extremists. Those responsible have not yet been traced.

Kholaf had one foot amputated. He was treated at Ramallah Hospital and left for Houston Texas in July for further medical treatment. Shaka, also treated abroad, is due to return to Nablus Sunday.

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