JERUSALEM (Mar. 22)
A general strike paralyzed most West Bank towns today. The strike, called to protest the ouster of the elected mayor and town council of El Bireh last Thursday was to have ended today. But West Bank mayors called for an extension until Wednesday.
All shops, schools and places of business were shut down in Ramallah, Halhoul and El Bireh. The latter town is under a dawn-to-dusk blockade with residents unable to leave or enter between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (Related story P. 2.)
SHOPKEEPERS FORCED TO OPEN BUSINESSES
In Hebron and Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers forced shopkeepers to open for business this afternoon. In East Jerusalem, where the strike spread, hundreds of Israeli police visited the homes of local merchants early this morning with written orders from the central command to open their businesses immediately.
Dozens of shopkeepers were transported in police vans to their shops which they were forced to open under the eyes of the police. But at least half of East Jerusalem remained strikebound during the day.
The police tactics drew an angry protest from Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek who complained that the security forces neither consulted nor informed him of their plans. He said he was opposed to opening businesses by force, especially in Jerusalem.
Police were stoned this morning near the Herod Gate and Lions Gate entrances to the Old City. There were further incidents of rock-throwing on the West Bank. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli army officer in Jenin but he was not hurt.
Meanwhile, a Jewish settler from Shiloh on the West Bank was taken into custody yesterday on suspicion of murder. The arrest followed the discovery over the weekend of the body of 17-year-old Mohammed Abdullah Suhweil who lived in a nearby Arab village. His family had reported that he and several other teen-agers were kidnapped by Jewish settlers from Shiloh last Friday after a stone-throwing melee.
NEW FLARE-UPS EXPECTED NEXT WEEK
Israeli sources said today that the level of violence on the West Bank seemed to be abating for the time being. But new flare-ups are expected nex week when Israeli Arabs mark Land Day on March 30, the anniversary of the seizure of Arab lands in Galilee by the Israeli government several years ago. Land Day has usually triggered violent demonstrations on the West Bank.
Premier Menachem Begin’s government shows no signs of relenting in its crackdown on West Bank officials who refuse to cooperate with the Israeli regime. It faces a vote of no-confidence in the Knesset tomorrow on motions submitted by the opposition Labor Alignment and Shinui factions and the Communist Party. But despite the narrowness of Begin’s Knesset majority, the motions are expected to be defeated, as similar motions have in the past. Yesterday the Cabinet voiced its approval of the army’s actions on the West Bank and Begin congratulated the soldiers for showing restraint, although 18-year-old lbrahim Ali Darwish was killed by soldiers in El Bireh Saturday and at least five other Arab teen-agers were wounded. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said the tough policy was intended to eliminate Palestine Liberation Organization influence from the territory.
According to Sharon, the policy is succeeding. He claimed that for the first time since 1967 there are leaders on the West Bank who are not obedient to the PLO. He was referring apparently to local Arabs who have joined the Israel-financed and protected Village Leagues.
Sharon said this group was not necessarily pro-Israel and included partisans of Jordan and advocates of a Palestinian state. But all of them show an independent approach to problems and it is therefore in Israel’s interest to strengthen this group, Sharon said.