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Israeli Soldiers Accused of Beating West Bank Arab Demonstrators Say They Were Carrying out Orders

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Seven Israeli army officers and other ranks accused of using excessive violence to subdue Arab demonstrators on the West Bank continue to insist that they were carrying out orders by their superiors which originated at the highest echelons of the defense establishment.

Capt. Mordecai Artzi, identified as “Operations Officer” of the Hebron Military Government, bolstered that line of defense in his testimony at a court martial trial yesterday. He said the area military commander, Lt. Col. Shalom Lugassi, had given him and other officers instructions which included beating up local residents, harassing them and smashing their wristwatches as forms of punishment.

TOLD TO ‘COLLECT’ WHOEVER WAS AROUND

“We were told to collect them, 150 or 200 at a time, whoever happened to be around, it didn’t matter if they had demonstrated or not. We brought them back to headquarters for questioning,” Artzi said.

He was testifying as a witness for Maj. David Mofaz, one of the seven accused of bearing and persecuting local Arab residents in the Hebron area during disturbances there last March and April. Mofaz, who was Deputy Military Governor, testified last week that his orders to use violence came directly from Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mofaz repeated his allegations in court yesterday, despite the prosecutor’s insistence that all Israeli soldiers were understanding orders not to strike local West Bank residents. According to Mofaz, “When a senior officer ordered us to deal with detainees, we understood from the spirit behind the words that we had to beat them up.” The prosecution contends that the accused acted in a brutal manner of their own volition, in violation of standing orders.

COURT MARTIAL FOLLOWS ALLEGATIONS

The seven men were ordered court martial after reserve officers of the Peace Now movement who served on the West Bank, made a series of allegations following their release from active service.

Peace Now recently urged the West Bank Military Government to act quickly to prevent “imminent acts of violence by Jewish settlers” against local Arab residents in the territory.

The movement based its warning on a Military Government document which disclosed that Minister of Science and Technology Yuval Neeman of the ultranationalist Tehiya faction, and his aide, Tehiya MK Hanan Porat, are setting up “supervisory teams” os- tensibly to guard State lands against Arab encroachment. These “teams” may well be used to deport Arabs opposed to Israeli rule over the territory, Peace Now warned. The movement said it learned that residents of Kiryat Arba, the Gush Emunim stronghold overlooking Hebron, plan to “persuade and pressure” shop owners in the old market place of Arab Hebron to get out to make room for Jewish settlers. They contend the area belonged to Jews who were forced to flee during the Arab disturbances in Hebron in 1929.

PUBLISH PHOTOS OF SPECIALLY FITTED JEEPS

Neeman, a hardliner who advocates Israel’s annexation of all occupied Arab territories and the removal of their Arab populations by one means or another, holds the Cabinet’s newly created science portfolio. But his activities since he joined Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition government last year have been exclusively in connection with advancing Jewish settlement in the territories. He is an ardent supporter of the Gush Emunim.

Israeli newspapers today published photographs of specially fitted jeeps operated by the Gush Etzion Regional Council to tour the area to track down “illegal Arab buildings” and “protect State lands.” The jeeps are equipped with radios supplied by the army and are each manned by two armed civilian settlers.

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