HEBRON (Sep. 4)
An atmosphere of tension engulfed this West Bank town after the fatal stabbing of an Israeli soldier and the wounding of another in the casba yesterday morning. It is mainly between enraged Jewish settlers who blame government policies for the tragedy and the defense establishment which is trying to maintain order and avoid new confrontations between Jews and Arabs.
The latest victim of the mounting violence between the two was Avraham Sorek, a 38-year-old reservist who died of knife wounds on the way to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He was buried today at Kibbutz Beit Oren, his home. Sorek, who immigrated to Israel from Chile several years ago, is survived by his wife, his 14-year-old daughter and two sons aged nine and five.
Also stabbed but reported in stable condition following surgery at the Hadassah Hospital is another reserve soldier, Arye Bornstein of Haifa. He and Sorek were standing guard outside a vacant two-story flat in the old market section of Hebron known as the casba when they were attacked. Military sources said both soldiers, armed with assault rifles and grenades, were apparently taken by surprise.
CITY DECLARED A MILITARY ZONE
It is not clear whether there were one or two assailants. A tight curfew was clamped on the casba and other parts of central Hebron. The city itself was declared a military zone. No one can enter or leave without a permit. The streets this morning were deserted. All Arab residents remained in their homes and the normally bustling market was empty.
Shortly after the stabbings, Jewish settlers tore down a wall separating the casba from the Jewish quarter of town. They said it was a symbolic reply to those who do not want Jews in the casba.
But Israeli soldiers quickly replaced the wall. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin made it clear in messages to settler leaders that they would not be allowed to use the tragedy to expand the Jewish presence in the predominantly Arab town. Rabin personally visited the scene of the attack today. He would not talk to reporters and refused to meet with representatives of the settlers.
While senior army officers met in Hebron to discuss security, the settlers gathered in the Jewish quarter to map their own response to the deteriorating situation. They said later that they would continue to act through political channels but also on the spot to improve the situation.
DEMANDS BY SETTLERS
The settlers are demanding, among other measures, that the authorities re-arrest Palestinian terrorists who were released in a prisoner exchange last May, that deportation proceedings for trouble-makers be speeded up and that the ban on further Jewish settlement in Hebron be lifted.
Efforts by militant settlers to increase the Jewish presence there set in motion the events which led to yesterday’s stabbings. The flat the two soldiers were guarding was occupied last month by settlers who claimed it belonged to Jews. The squatters were replaced by rightwing Knesset members who support the settlers’ aims. But they were evicted by order of the Defense Ministry and soldiers were posted to guard the deserted premises against attempts by Jewish militants to return.
Violence against Jews in the West Bank increased last month. An Israeli was murdered in Tulkarem on August 24 and Jews were wounded in Jenin and Nablus. Settlers said today they would go to the market places in several Arab towns in the territory in the next few days to demonstrate that Jews will not be intimidated by the series of attacks.
RAMIFICATIONS FOR THE UNITY GOVERNMENT
The security situation in the West Bank has serious political ramifications for the national unity government. The Labor Party is determined to keep the peace and punish violators, Jewish or Arab. Their Likud partners are equally determined in support of the settlers’ demands that Jews be permitted to live anywhere in the West Bank under the protection of Israel’s armed forces.
The 10-man Inner Cabinet–five Labor and five Likud ministers — met in Jerusalem today to discuss the security problems. Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin stressed that terrorism must be countered by military operations. The Likud ministers argued that the government, in addition, must support and reenforce Jewish settlement activity in the territory.
The ministers agreed that Israel would renew its demand on Jordan to get rid of the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership elements which have established themselves in Amman recently. They agreed that Israel would make clear to Jordan that the terrorists would not be immune and could be reached anywhere. This seemed to imply military strikes against them inside Jordan if necessary.