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Some 20,000 Palestinians at Nablus Mayor’s Funeral Turn Event into a Political Rally

At least 20,000 Palestinians attended the funeral in Nablus Monday of Mayor Zafer Al-Masri, gunned down by an unknown assassin Sunday outside the town hall. But the last rites for the slain mayor turned out to be less an occasion of mourning than a giant political rally for Palestinian nationalism at which the crowds raised huge pictures of Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat along with pictures of Al-Masri, who was a Palestinian moderate.

Israeli authorities had lifted the curfew clamped on downtown NABLUS after the killing. But they apparently were not prepared for the political turn of events. The authorities do not permit political gatherings in the administered territories. But in NABLUS Monday, Palestinians, particularly the young generation, expressed their sentiments loud and clear.

Large Palestinian flags were raised as the funeral procession moved from the main mosque in the heart of town to the Al-Masri family mosque. And the participants seemed to forget they were there to bury a dead leader as they shouted praise for the living PLO leader, Arafat, and cursed their living enemies.

ASSAD AND HUSSEIN DENOUNCED

Prominent among the latter were President Hafez Assad of Syria and King Hussein of Jordan — Assad apparently because he supports and gives sanctuary to the anti-Arafat PLO dissidents. Youths shouted slogans such as “Assad — a lion in Lebanon but a rabbit in the Golan” and “Hussein the pig, we shall put you in chains.”

Anti-Hussein sentiment coalesced in the West Bank after the Jordanian ruler announced last week he had abandoned his efforts with Arafat to bring the PLO into the peace process because the world of the PLO leadership could not be relied on.

The tide seemed to shift when Al-Masri was murdered. Although appointed by the Israeli authorities, he did not take office before he was assured of support by both Jordan and the PLO. The popular sentiments expressed in Nablus Monday indicated that Hussein’s stock is very low among West Bank Palestinians. Al-Masri’s funeral was attended by virtually every Palestinian leader, from Jenin in the north to Gaza and Rafah near the Sinai border. The late mayor was hailed as “Shahid” — a person who sacrificed himself for the good of the nation, the term used by the PLO after Al-Masri was murdered. His body was taken from its casket and passed from hand to hand to the Al-Masri family mosque where he was interred.

VIOLENCE ERUPTS AT REFUGEE CAMP

Hours before the funeral, violence erupted at the Balata refugee camp near Nablus where Israel Defense Force soldiers killed a camp resident during a fierce skirmish with rock-throwing youths.

According to the IDF, the soldiers were chasing the youths when they were ambushed in the camp by another mob and found themselves in a life-threatening situation. The commander of the IDF force ordered his men to open fire. A 52-year-old man was fatally wounded, apparently hit by a random bullet.

Members of his family said later he was shot without provocation. A woman camp resident complained that she was struck by Israeli soldiers while standing peacefully outside the house of the deceased.

Shots were fired by border police in another rock-throwing attack after the funeral but no one was hurt. Premier Shimon Peres reiterated Monday that Israel would not change its policy of installing Arab mayors in West Bank towns.

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