JERUSALEM (Apr. 12)
A terrorist firebomb which killed an Israeli woman and severely burned her husband, their three children and a family friend in their car on a road in the West Bank Saturday night raised tensions to a fever pitch between Jewish settlers and the local Arab population. It triggered a new confrontation between settlers and security forces, with possible political repercussions for the shaky Labor-Likud unity coalition government.
The victims were Ofra Moses, 35, who was trapped in the car and burned to death; her husband Avraham, 37, their children Tal, 5, Adi, 8, and Nir, 14 and their friend, Yosef Lallo, 14, all of whom were hospitalized with first-degree burns.
The bomb struck the car on the way from the Moses’ home settlement of Alphe-Menashe to Petach Tikva. Shortly afterwards, furious Jewish settlers descended on the largest nearby Arab town, Kalkilya, smashing windows and vehicles, stoning the mayor’s home and setting fire to fields and orchards. The settlers justified their attack on grounds that the security forces failed to protect Jews.
A curfew was imposed on Kalkilya, Hable and another small village in the area Saturday night and remained in effect until late Sunday afternoon when Ofra Moses was buried in Petach Tikva.
Three rows of citrus trees were uprooted by military bulldozers Sunday on the road where the attack took place. The official reason given was to clear away a possible ambush site. The citrus grove was apparently owned by Arabs.
HISTORY OF PEACEFUL RELATIONS
Kalkilya, normally a bustling market town of 23,000, has had a long history of peaceful relations with nearby Jewish towns and settlements in Israel and the West Bank. It attracts thousands of Jewish shoppers daily and especially on Saturdays when Jewish businesses are closed. Thousands of Arab workers there find jobs in adjacent Jewish population centers.
According to Israeli authorities, the Arabs of Kalkilya have a vested interest in law and order and if there are anti-Israel sentiments, they are low key.
The town is governed by Mayor Abdul Rahman Abu-Sneineh, who was appointed by the Israeli civil authorities and is apparently popular with the townspeople. There were no indications that the terrorists who attacked the Moses’ car came from Kalkilya or had any connection with the town.
But the Jewish settlers struck at it nevertheless. According to Mayor Shlomo Katan of Alphe-Menashe, “the local residents would not have had to take the law into their hands if the security forces had done their job.”
The attack was the latest and the worst of many incidents of unrest in the administered territories during the past week. Recent rioting and stone throwing by Arabs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank was linked to a hunger strike by some 3,000 Arab security prisoners demanding better conditions.
Mayor Abu-Sneineh of Kalkilya told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Sunday that the Jewish rioting in his town would not improve the situation between Arabs and Jews.