JERUSALEM (Sep. 8)
Beefed-up security forces made their presence felt in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend in a major effort to quash resurgent terrorist activity and prevent militant Jewish settlers from trying to take the law into their own hands.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin briefed the Cabinet on the situation in the territories today. He said the Israel Defense Force has been ordered to take preventive measures. He said these measures include some that have not been used in years. He did not specify but it is known that deportation orders and administrative detention orders are being invoked to counter terrorism.
At the same time, Rabin said that the IDF would not permit patrols by armed Jewish settlers in Arab cities in the territories. He said the settlers were issued arms to protect their settlements and their safe movement. But anyone who bears arms is subject to IDF regulations, the Defense Minister stressed.
SETTLERS HARASS RELEASED TERRORISTS
Settlers in the territories nevertheless continued to harass convicted terrorists who were released from prison last May and allowed to return to their homes.
A house in Dura village belonging to one of them was set on fire over the weekend. Stones were thrown at the house of another in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Jewish settlers made another attempt to force their way into the sealed-off Tel Rumeida quarter of Hebron. They were blocked by soldiers.
Three Knesset members of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) were prevented from entering Ramallah in the West Bank carrying peace banners which they said were to counter the threats by armed settlers. They were told by soldiers that the Arab city is closed to all Israelis, including settlers. Jews may travel anywhere in the territory, including areas under curfew, but may not engage in political demonstrations.
SITUATION MOST TENSE IN GAZA
The situation was most tense in Gaza this weekend following last Thursday’s knife attack on an Israeli oil truck driver, Moshe Fitusi, 25, of Beersheba. Less than 24 hours after the attack, which sent Fitusi to the hospital for emergency surgery, two suspects were arrested and reportedly confessed to the assault.
They have been identified as Saad Afanne, 23, of the Rafah refugee camp, and Yusuf Abu-Armane, 26, of the Brasilia refugee camp near Rafah. A military spokesman said that after they confessed security forces demolished their houses.
Fitusi, whose condition was pronounced serious but out of danger, was the third Israeli attacked in two days. An Israeli reserve soldier, Avraham Sorek, 38, was stabbed to death in the Hebron market place last Tuesday and another soldier, Arye Bernstein, suffered serious but non-fatal knife wounds. They had been standing guard over a vacant flat and were fully armed when attacked by unidentified assailants who escaped.
Senior military sources noted today that the terrorists were becoming increasingly bold. They were not afraid to attack armed soldiers because they were confident they could achieve surprise and escape in the crowd, he said. The increased visibility of the IDF and spot security checks everywhere are intended to end the prospects of easy escape for would-be assassins.
PARATROOPS PATROL TOWNS
Today, green and red beretted paratroops patrolled the towns and suburbs of the West Bank. Soldiers were seen on the highways and in downtown areas spot-checking the documents of travellers and shoppers.
Falastin Square, in the center of Gaza, where Fitusi was stabbed several times in the back while delivering gasoline to a local service station, remained under curfew. Armed Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, joined by others from the West Bank, planned to make a foray into the square as a show of strength. But soldiers blocked their way.
The Jewish settlers committee in Gaza said it would continue to patrol the city. At the request of the Chief of Staff and the regional commander, they reduced the size of their patrols. But the committee sent telegrams to Police Minister Haim Barlev and to the Defense Ministry urging that a civil guard be established in Gaza.
Feelings are high among Arabs in the territories as well. About 150 Hebron merchants appealed to the civil administration Friday to lift the curfew in the Hebron market where the Israeli soldier was murdered. The merchants condemned the attack which they said harmed innocent Arab residents.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel said he would meet tomorrow with a delegation of Arabs from Tulkarem in an effort to counter the strong anti-Arab sentiments being drummed up by Jewish settlers.
The delegation went to Netanya last week to convey condolences over the murder in Tulkarem three weeks ago of a Netanya resident, Andre Aloush, 40. The Mayor of Netanya refused to see them. But Hillel said he would receive the delegation because it is necessary to encourage peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs.