JERUSALEM (Nov. 8)
A general strike in south Lebanon yesterday, a shut down of businesses in East Jerusalem and a wave of rock-throwing incidents on the West Bank reflected growing turmoil in the region rather than political motives.
The Lebanese who shut down their shops, markets and banks in the principal cities in the Israel-occupied south were protesting the closure of the Awali River bridges, a precautionary measure taken by the Israel Defense Force following last Friday’s truck bomb attack on military headquarters in Tyre.
No incidents were reported apart from tire-burning in some village streets. The IDF did not intervene. The Awali bridges were partially reopened yesterday for pedestrian and limited vehicular traffic under tight security control.
POPULACE VENTS FRUSTRATION AND RAGE
On the West Bank, the populace was venting frustration and rage against the Syrian-backed attack on Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat who has been driven from his last strongholds in the refugee camps of northern Lebanon to the port area of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city.
Arafat and his loyalists are clearly in trouble, outnumbered by PLO dissidents armed and controled by Syria. But he apparently has the overwhelming support of Palestinian on the West Bank. The Organization of Free Professionals in Beir Hanina and the Federation of Labor Unions, both important Palestinian bodies on the West Bank, called yesterday for a cease-fire in northern Lebanon and denounced Syrian intervention on the side of anti-Arafat elements.
A Shaab and Al Fajr, the two largest pro-PLO newspapers in East Jerusalem, condemned what they called “Syrian-Libyan aggression” in Tripoli. Another major Arabic newspaper, the conservative Al Kuds, compared the attacks on Arafat to the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacre in September, 1982.
The commercial strike in East Jerusalem was nearly total and several schools remained closed yesterday. A strike in Nablus was less successful. Israeli troops intervened there to curb stone-throwing youths. Stones also flew at Beir Zeit University and at the Daheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem where the Israeli authorities imposed a curfew.
Arab affairs experts contended that the general strike in south Lebanon was called by El Amal, the Shiite Moslem organization. Meanwhile, Israel kept a watchful eye on both Syria which mobilized its reserves yesterday and Tripoli where Arafat is under heavy Syrian artillery, mortar and rocket fire. Haaretz reported today that Egypt has plans to evacuate Arafat by sea and give him haven, with Israel’s tacit consent.
Beirut was quiet today after renewed fighting over the weekend in which one U.S. marine was wounded. About 200 marines left their headquarters in Beirut today and were ferried to American troop transports lying offshore. U.S. sources said they were to be repatriated and replaced by a fresh marine contingent.
ISRAEL AVOIDING EXACERBATING TENSIONS
Israel, for its part, has taken no action likely to add to the tensions in the region. Military authorities insisted that a call-up of reserves ordered yesterday was a limited exercise to test the efficiency of the mobilization machinery and had no warlike intentions.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir referred to the Syrian mobilization during a tour of south Lebanon today. Israel, he said, threatened nobody and nobody need fear Israel unless they have “hostile designs on us.” He said that as long as there was danger to Israel from Syria or PLO terrorists, Israel had no alternative but to remain in south Lebanon. Terrorist operations against Israel would only make the day of departure more distant, he warned.
“Whoever wants us to get out of Lebanon should take care to ensure quiet there and see to it that nobody raises a hand against Israeli soldiers,” Shamir said. “Only then can we talk to them, agree on security arrangements and return home.”